Anonymity

Earworms:
You Get to Burning by Yumi Matsuzawa. OP of Martian Successor Nadesico
Picaresque by Mikio Sakai. From Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion.
Watching:
Martian Successor Nadesico. Studio XEBEC, 3/26 episodes.
Reading Going to Read:
Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko

Remember my previous run-in with the comic strip?

I’ve been thinking about it, and I may know now why I could act in such a judgmental manner (I realized I could have spoken in a better manner, and for that I apologize. Still I think it’s not fit for publication.), and I believe the root is caused by something inherent to the Internet and even necessary for certain endeavors: Anonymity.

All regular Internet users are aware that unless you personally know the person you are communicating with online, there is a chance that the person is not really who he or she claims to be. The person may be of a different age, different gender, occupation, religion, and most of all, personality. For all the connectivity the Great Online adds to our lives, it comes with a certain barrier that most of us are not really willing to let go of, a barrier that many of us even embrace.

Many of us think that anonymity is a very good defense against Internet attacks. We can always shield ourselves from direct criticism, we can hide our true personalities and put up a front that we might think other people find more likable, or perhaps we don’t really like attention (of which I am doubtful) and hide behind anonymity. However, I think this is a double-edged sword.

Because we don’t see the person replying, because the Internet in a sense depersonalizes the other, so we find it much easier to forget that the person is a person indeed. It’s easier to judge someone else only based on his or her work. If we think their work is good, we think the person is good. If we think the person’s work is lame, we think the person is lame. In a sense it was probably much easier for me to judge the author of the comic strip because he doesn’t use his real name in the strip’s credits. At least, that’s how I understand this phenomenon of anonymity.

I’m going to relive my college philosophy days for a while. I’m going to talk a bit about Emmanuel Levinas’s philosophy about the Self and the Other. Please correct me if I’m wrong, as I haven’t read any philosophical texts for at least three years.

As I understand it, Levinas believes that it is much easier for the Self to treat the Other badly if the Other is depersonalized. If the Other is not treated as a person, it is much easier to abuse. This is of course very prevalent all over the world. We have ideologies based on discrimination all over the place. It would help ethics a lot of the Other is not only seen as an equal, but superior to the Self.

I’m about to share with you an essay I wrote for philosophy in class back in college. If you have time, read on.

Modesty aside, this was an A paper. By the grace of God I remembered everything I had to remember at the right time, and I knew enough about World War II to illustrate my point well enough.

Explain the following quote as clearly, concisely and as creatively as you can based on Levinas’s and/or Arendt’s philosophy.

“Violence applied to a free being, is taken in its most general sense, war. War is not the collision of two substances, or two intentions, but an attempt made by one to master the other by surprise, by ambush. War is ambush. It is to take hold of the substance of the other, what is strong and absolute in him, through what is weak in him. War is loking for the Achilles’s heel; it is to envisage the other, the adversary, with logistics calculations like an engineer measuring the effort needed to demolish the enemy mass. The other becoming a mass is what describes the relationship of war, and in this it approximates the violence of labor.

In other words, what characterizes violent action, what characterizes tyranny, is that one does not face what the action is being applied to. To put it more precisely: it is that one does not see the face in the other, one sees the other freedom as a force, savage; one identifies the absolute character of the other with his force.” [I still don’t know who said this, as the test sheet did not credit it to anyone. They might have been the words of my professor, Ms. Jacklyn Cleofas.]

[My words begin here]
March 13, 2004
The past century is one that has been forged and beaten into shape by war. The two World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and many other smaller-scale conflicts have filled our recent history with images of pain, death, and human savagery. War is one of the most damaging, if not the most damaging, offspring of egotism.

The Second World War was the result of people uniting with the intent to install themselves as the supreme human beings—the Nazis believing that the Aryans are the perfect, Master Race that owns the right to the world; the Japanese, believing that their emperor was a god; and with them, the Italians.

In all this we see that the I, the Self, the Ego, is hailed as the lord and master; Führer, Il Duce, Tennou Heika (天皇陛下). The Other is not seen as superior, but if not a threat, as an inferior. The Other exists only to be dominated, and if the I’s domination is refused and resisted, then the Other must be annihilated.

In some cases, such “clemency,” if it may be called that, does not even exist. Many a Nazi professor has earned his PhD studying the culture and genetics of so-called “lesser races” and concluded in his dissertation that such ethnic groups are a threat to the genetic ascendancy of the Aryans. The Other is treated as a faceless, obscure statistic—now lab rats to be experimented on, now vermin to be exterminated.

[The Evil Generals Confer]
Denying the Other a face is only practical. Printed in the face of the Other is Infinity, a trace thereof, and if your handsome Schutzstaffel officers are to see that face, to recognize it, they cannot help but to recognize the power in it as well. But if the SS trooper is to see the Other as only a Jew, and not as a person who happens to be a Jew; a six-pointed star and not as an Other who is above oneself, then it makes the whole task of stripping them into disgrace, filling their lungs with hydrogen cyanide and incinerating the remains like garbage [a lot easier]. They are parasites, not people; offal, not Other. Deny the Other a face, and deny the Other his or her power and superiority over the Ego.

One Nazi Tiger tank can kill four Allied Sherman tanks. No faces to calculate, [because] a person, an Other with a face, is more precious than an entire country’s economy can buy. The Other is unquantifiable, but war efforts require quantifiable data. They are not people who die, just numbers labeled “casualties.”

Calling the enemy names helps as well. Japs, Krauts, dogs, Brits, savages—these are not people. Only scratches to be added to the barrel of your rifle, decals to be applied to the hull of your plane. It’s not your job to worry about the Other, it’s your job to shoot him down and in doing so, uphold the Great Cause you are fighting for.

The enemy is not a group of people working on a ship. Their ship is only a blip on your radar. Why, you can’t even seem them! No need to worry about their families, the wives that await their return and the children who are dying to hear glorious stories of their father’s and brothers’ heroics. See? It makes pulling the trigger so much easier.

With our current technology, you need to worry to worry even less. We have nuclear missiles that can incinerate entire cities or army formations at the push of a button. Two millennia ago, people actually had to fight hand-to-hand—and see their enemies’ faces, maybe even talk to them. But now? It’s so much more convenient. We have cruise missiles, long-range sniper rifles, faceless tanks—we have all learned to make war ever so easier to wage.

[The Generals Pause]

It is tragic that one of the greatest achievements of [humans] is learning to kill [one another] more efficiently. No need to cross swords—just pull the trigger. The enemy is a number, a quantity. Whoever has more at the end of the day wins. Such is the simple equation of war. And one surely cannot input the Other, with his or her face, and the power and superiority inherent in him or her into the equation.

[The Generals Continue to Speak]
But this defrockment of the Other does not start or end here. One’s own men must be depersonalized and quantified as well. They are battalions, regiments, companies, platoons and squads. Tactical calculations cannot include faces. They are numbers, and at most, names. Leave the lower-ranking officers to deal with individuals. We are generals, we are at the top of the army. We are the top brass. They follow our orders without question. They know our faces, we don’t know—and don’t care—about theirs. Just keep track of their medals, and if they die, remember to send a flag to their parents, along with two well-dressed officers to rant about how their son died for the Cause.

[The Generals Recess]

War is the ultimate depersonalizer. The tactical equations, the little figures one manipulates on a scale model of the battlefield: these cannot possible take Others—superior beings in whom there is a trace of the Infinite—into consideration. Pulling the trigger is easier when the target is but a label, a statistic, a casualty. It is not a general’s business to worry about individuals. Take advantage of their weaknesses, find ways around their strengths. They are the Enemy; they are not Others. War is waged for the Self—the lofty ambitions of the Leaders and the survival of the soldiers. There is no true fighting for a cause—war is fought for the Self, the Ego, the I. And the Other is at the Ego’s mercy.
[Essay ends here]

So I guess this is why it’s so easy for us to judge (and possibly, as a result of this, flame) one another online. Sure, our anonymity protects us, somewhat. But ultimately it is easy for us to be so indignant with a person who is but a label, a person who is a single avatar, a nick.

It is so easy to forget that the avatar only represents the Other, and that the Other is more than an avatar. The Other is so much more.

To put this in a Christian context:

“…seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all,and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. —Colossians 3:9-13

Never forget the Other’s trace of Infinity,

Your Black Lion

~ by J. R. R. Flores on April 15, 2007.

3 Responses to “Anonymity”

  1. […] this came after reading my friend Joey’s post on Anonymity. It’s a great read about how we’re no longer as anonymous on the internet as we were […]

  2. Awesome essay, sir🙂
    And I suppose some people might also like the anonymity idea because of the countless excuses it places at their disposal😄 (e.g., “This person doesn’t even know me anyway, so who is he to flame me back?” –which is somewhat flawed thinking, but oh well @@;)
    It’s both a primary defense and a safety net, I guess @@

  3. […] to one another in honor…” I spoke a little about this in my previous entry about anonymity[link]. I we think of our brethren as higher than ourselves, then it is all the more simpler to treat […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: