A Correspondence About The War

I had a brief correspondence with Kim Oserwalder today, based on a comment I left on his site. After writing it, I realized that it set out my core views on the war, and the central argument I felt brought me to support it. I’m putting our messages up here, and understand that he’s putting them up on his site, we’ll collect our comments and see what happens.

From: armed@armedliberal.com
To: halfabee01@cox.net
Subject: Re: War
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 16:47:42 -0500

First, let me make it clear that I am a recent and reluctant convert to the ‘war’ camp. I’m deeply suspicious of the honesty and competence of the current Administration (although the last was no picnic in the park either, and Gore would not, I believe have been better – I’m no fan of the DNC).

The position (you have to make a case for acting) is not unreasonable in the abstract; but in the less-abstract world, you have to weigh the consequences of _not_ acting against the consequences of acting.

And the consequences are material, and real.

I’m not a Den Beste ‘war with Islam’ believer; but I do believe that there are elements in the Islamic world that want a war with us.

And I do believe that we need to defeat them…both with arms and with alms.

And while I wish that we had not done the things we have done – created and supported tyrannical oligarchies in the Middle East – we did them, and you and I bear our share of the responsibility for those actions (LES MAINS SALES). And having done them, and looking at the consequences of what we’ve done – to create a reservoir of rage that threatens us, people in the Middle East, innocent people in many parts of the world where enraged Islam is at war – doesn’t mean that we should commit suicide to try and atone for the wrongs we have done.

So we are left with two bad choices…Fortress America, and war. I choose war, because first, I believe that if we don’t have it now, it will come to us soon enough, and that the war and our response to it will be even more horrible…I have used the word genocide, and I don’t think I’m far off…and second, because I believe that the overall weight of human suffering – death and horror, not ‘lower standards of living’ – that will fall over the rest of the world if we don’t act are more than I could bear.

That’s how I’ve wound up where I am.

What I expect from those opposed to war is another path through the problem; some facts and ideas that don’t leave us pinned in this bad fork.

When I criticized you, _that_ was what I was looking for.

Thanks for writing, and thinking, and caring about all this. I have three sons and I lose sleep every night over this.


Original Message:
From: kim halfabee01@cox.net
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 13:03:17 -0800
To: armed@armedliberal.com
Subject: Re: War


First, let me say that I feel that since it is your side that is proposing to kill many thousands of people, the onus is on you to offer convincing arguments. It is up to my side to respond only by saying “yes, that is sufficient to convince me that you may be right,” or to say “no, your argument is insufficient to justify killing the innocent.” That’s all there is to it. Any discussion can only concern WHY we think that your arguments are insufficient, which is objective. You hunt, while I have difficulty killing ants in my kitchen. (No judgment is intended.) It is easier to convince some to kill then others. So to say that my argument is weak is incorrect. My argument (killing is bad) may seem simplistic, but it is the only real argument, and the only one that there can be. All other anti-war arguments are incidental.

I get very impatient listening to Bush administration’s reasons for war. The idea that any country be asked to “disarm” — especially one with such highly sought after natural resources — is laughable. A “disarmed” country is left completely vulnerable, and I can understand any reluctance to rely only on the goodwill of others. Only when they give us the real reasons for invasion can any real debate begin. In the future (unless we change our course) there will be plenty of leaders that we dislike, and many will have nuclear weapons. We will need to formulate some plan for dealing with them that doesn’t involve killing. We may as well start now. Maybe we should try to have a foreign policy that doesn’t make people around the world want to kill us. I don’t know if this is even remotely possible, but we should feel obligated to give it a try.

At this point I think that all discussion on this topic has been superficial. I would like to hear someone try to make a really good case for invasion. I would like to hear some pro-war person explain that yes, we can’t stop at Iraq, we will go from there to Iran, Syria, etc. We won’t have a choice but to dominate the whole region. Explain that yes, there will be more terror incidents on our own soil if we invade, but that is the price we pay for our high standard of living. Some Americans have to die so that others can be well off. Acknowledge all these things and then explain why this is preferable.

And on the anti-war side we need to acknowledge that not invading means that we may have to except a somewhat lower standard of living at some point in the future (as the currency for oil is converted to euros rather than dollars,) but that is the price we pay for our reluctance to kill children. (50% of the population of Iraq are under the age of 15.) The anti-war side has to acknowledge that we may be trading our nice cars, computers, college educations for our offspring, etc. (although I don’t think the effect will be so drastic, if we are clever about things) for the privilege of not killing and dying in the Persian Gulf.


I can’t really find anything here that I disagree with.


You seem to be saying that attacks such as Hiroshima and Dresden are justified, because they had the effect of shortening the war and thus possibly limiting casualties.

This is correct, once a conflict has started. Don’t you think that this is a good argument for not letting armed conflicts start in the first place?

Thanks for contacting me. I enjoyed reading these. They are good and thoughtful pieces, but I don’t think that they argue in favor of the pending invasion. If you do write something, I hope you will let me know. I remain open on this question, despite what it may seem — especially considering this: http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/RRiraqWar.html.

kim osterwalder http://www.freepie.org/

(edited slightly for spelling and grammar)

A Different Kind of Heroism

I know a number of police officers. I’ve come to know them professionally and become friends with them ly. I see the ways in which the nature of the job hardens them emotionally, and some of the price that they pay – and that we pay – for their isolation.

I’m jumping the gun on Joe’s policy of good news on Saturdays, but out of my own respect for the men and women who put on uniforms and defend us here at home, I want to nominate my own hero. In Wednesday’s L.A. Times is this story of a police officer whose heroism was of the heart and of the spirit. Read about LAPD Officer Derwin Henderson, and what he’s done by putting his life on the line…not in an instant of adrenaline-filled bravery…but in the kind of patient courage that doesn’t translate to TV or the big screen, but makes all the difference here in reality. I can’t pick a “bullet quote” and give you a sense of this story, in which a LAPD officer accepts, guides, and ultimately adopts a child no one else could or would raise. So here are a few:

Patrolling the streets for the Los Angeles Police Department, he had arrested more than 500 kids: burglars, rapists, drug dealers, robbers. “Hook and book” had become his motto. “I thought juvenile hall was where they belonged.”

But he had begun a new assignment the year before: visiting schools for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, talking to children about gangs and drugs. And in every class, he met boys like Terrance: aimless kids destined to drift into trouble, all energy and audacity.

But behind the bold talk, Henderson was questioning himself. How had a cop who never gave a second thought to hundreds of delinquent boys become a man who couldn’t stop worrying about one?

He realized that his work with DARE, designed to change young lives, had actually changed him.

“I saw kids I would have put in juvenile hall and realized they were crying out for help,” he said. “I saw their lives, their families, their neighborhoods. It changed my views about young people. Some never had the opportunities … like you had, like I had. Didn’t every kid deserve that chance?”

And Terrance has discovered that there are other things in life that offer success.

He watched alongside Henderson from the sidelines as his team played its final game and lost in the playoffs in December.

The next weekend, at the championship game, Henderson watched alone from the stands. All night long acquaintances asked, “Where’s your son? How’s he doing?”

Terrance had decided not to come, Henderson told them. Finals were coming up the next week. His son was at home, studying.

While Officer Henderson’s story is incredibly uplifting, we ought to remember that it’s not unique. There are doubtless hundreds or thousands of Derwin Hendersons out there, each doing something remarkable out of the spotlight. Here’s my acknowledgement to them all through my recognition of one. Thank you, sir.


My post on France is attracting lots of intelligent discussion from the French:

It’s all bullshit …
all of you, french, americans …
We can talk about all the errors ours gouvernments made but …
It’s not the story.
The story is WAR ….
Murders, people dying …
lots of death people …
300.000 iraqian soldiers …
and how many children ????
do you want another Vietnam war ?
It’s all about politic, economical situation, …
But we’re talking about iraquians mens and womens who are, for the most part, innocents.
Indeed, all people, french too, are for changing iraquian gouvernment.
But please, NO WAR, we don’t need it.

And in French, this:


A rough translation:

Go fuck yourselves, gang of the fat Blair! One who belives Bush and all his administration bathe in Iraqui gas.

Both, unsurprisingly are from fake email addresses – “chirac@aimelafrance.com” and “salecond@meri.cain” (dirty, stupid @merican).
Look mes beaux types (dear guys), right now the U.S. is highly annoyed at France. There’s going to be a war, and at the end of it, we’ll either figure out how to be allies again … or not. I’d like us to be allies, which is why I hammer Americans who make outrageous statements about France. I’d suggest that you will need American allies as well…and this m’emmerder (pisses me off).

A Challenge, and a Response

Glenn Reynolds and other ‘anti-idiotarians’ have been direct in confronting antiwar groups for allying themselves with the Stalinist troglodytes of ANSWER. I’ve joined them, both on my blog and in real life, as I’ve made it clear to my antiwar friends who sponsors the demonstrations they are supporting, and the moral devaluation of their case that this alliance causes.

Nathan Newman has risen to this challenge.

In a post tonight, he lays out the thuggish background of a group at the helm of a proposed April 1st pro-affirmative action demonstration in Washington D.C., and challenges his compatriots who support affirmative action to distance themselves from this group, ‘By Any Means Necessary’

Good job, Nathan. Thanks.

On High Horses

Trent and Joe have pulled up the story of teachers abusing the children of military families by accusing their serving parents of being war criminals.

Abuse is abuse, and I’ll let others talk about specifics and actions.

But the underlying attitude is the schoolmarmish (yes, I use that advisedly) tone of moral superiority so often adopted by the Left.

I’ve talked about it pretty frequently over at Armed Liberal; here, here, and here for example.

It isn’t only a matter of not liking being lectured. There are some real issues with this attitude which have to be confronted…even by those who may agree with the lecturers on issues.

People are divided into two camps, the old joke goes. Those who divide everything into two camps and those who don’t.

Looking at it, I’ll make a division here and talk about some American political and cultural history as a part of it.

On one hand, we have the ‘pragmatists’. Pragmatists are concerned with things that work. On the other, we have ‘moralists’. Moralists are deeply concerned with making the world as they think it ought to be.

In making this statement, I’m vastly simplifying both positions. Moralists devoid of practical skills are at best ascetic hermits. Pragmatists without a moral compass become very good at getting nowhere at all…or go into managing campaigns. The reality is that people’s motivations are complex. But looking at American political history in the last fifty years, it’s useful to look at these two impulses, and the conflicts between them and see what we can learn from it.

America in the fifties was a highly moralistic country, or superficially so. The easy moral superiority of the white, Protestant mainstream, and their exclusion or diminishment of everyone from Harry Bridges to Medgar Evers as tools of “the Communist conspiracy” opened the door to an underground which acknowledged the injustice of racial exclusion, attempted to tip the balance of power toward the ‘progressive’ underground,

Today, the progressives occupy the seats of superficial morality. The 1950’s vision was a perfect, hardworking, churchgoing America was a strong but shallow myth. It was made brittle by its reluctance to recognize its own hypocrisy in matters of sex, race, and economic power. The current liberal myth of a morally perfectible America is equally shallow and made equally brittle by the left’s reluctance to recognize the hypocrisy of SUV’s with ‘No war for oil” bumperstickers, and of the cruel intolerance of PETA.

And intolerance…intolerance not as opposed to “anything goes” tolerance, but as opposed to tolerance that acknowledges that people can differ but still have moral standing; that people can be wrong but remain fellow humans…is the ultimate Achilles heel of both the moralistic Left and the moralistic Right. Not only does each one lead to an increasing isolation of its adherents, but it ultimately weakens the position of each camp.

Why weakened, you ask?

Because as I noted below, the ability to be wrong – to acknowledge that reality is more complex than our understanding of it, and to adapt our understandings to reality – is the root of Western power. And, more than that, the similar ability to love the sinner and hate the sin – to forgive and absorb – is the root of Western morality.


Sorry for dropping out of sight like that; got another invite to go up to the mountains and ski with Tenacious G and Middle Guy, and took it…of course I got sick with la grippe Friday, and spent most of the weekend wrapped in a quilt on the sofa of my friend’s condo.
I did get a half-day of skiing in, and managed a Warren Miller-worthy crash on Dave’s Run. You know you’ve crashed well when, after you (finally) get to a stop, you hear a soft voice from above you going “Duuuude! You OK?
So I had no Internet connection, but managed to read a couple of books (the new William Gibson, Pattern Recognition, and Jay Walters’ and Dan Walter’s great The Third House: Lobbyists, Power, and Money in Sacramento).
I’m back, will work on the ‘Risk’ stuff and catch up to all the world’s events, plus all the comments.
With all that, a nice weekend…


My hometown…from today’s Daily Breeze:

A Torrance stamp and coin shop dealer shot and wounded a would-be armed robber Thursday, prompting support from neighbors who said the criminal “picked the wrong guy” to hold up.
The 79-year-old owner, reportedly robbed three or four times in the past year, fired one shot at the gunman at 1:50 p.m., hitting him in the hip. The suspected robber, Joshua Edward Reyes, 20, of Torrance was booked at County-USC Medical Center jail ward in Boyle Heights, Torrance police Lt. Patrick Shortall said.

Shortall said the shooting appears to be a “robbery that was interrupted by the victim.” Police will present their reports on the shooting to the District Attorney’s Office to determine whether the shooting was self-defense.
The shooting was the second time in less than a year that a downtown Torrance business owner fired a gun at a robber.

The crime rate in Torrance (12.7/1000) is 43% of the rate in Los Angeles, and 75% of the rate in Beverly Hills.
“robbery that was interrupted by the victim.” Has kind of a good sound to it.
I have a correspondent who forwards me, using fake email addresses, stories about tragedies involving people hurting others with guns. I know, and we all know, about these because they are well-reported in the press.
In much of the country, stories like this one seldom get reported.
So, mystery correspondent, this one’s for you.

Risky Business (Part 2/6)

[Read Part 1: Risk | Part 2: Risky Business | Part 3: Risk & Reality | Part 4: Risk & Politics | Risk, Reality, & Bullsh-t ]

You knew I was going to open with that headline.

Everyone thinks that the success of the American economic model is built on success; on our ability to produce winning enterprises. We focus on looking back at the history of the winning enterprises…profiled in Forbes or Business Week…and try and see what lessons we can learn.

We’re doing it wrong.

The success of the American economic model is built largely on failure.

It is built on our willingness as a people to try things and to risk failing; built on the fact that we accept failure as part of the price of ultimate success; and ultimately on our willingness to accept displacement and change as a natural part of our social and economic lives. From the Wall Street Journal:

The early years of the U.S. railroad industry were crowded with hundreds of start-ups. “In the 1840s and 1850s, it seemed like everybody and his brother was chartering a railroad,” says Anne Calhoun, reference librarian at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore. “It was the new thing to do, like the Internet is now.”

In February 1827, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad became the first common-carrier railroad in the U.S., meaning the first rail transportation system to carry freight and passengers for revenue. (The “common-carrier” concept was later applied to telecommunications.) By 1935, B&O had absorbed more than 100 other lines, “some of which existed only on paper,” Ms. Calhoun notes. Similar consolidations happened all over the U.S., as other railroad companies acquired weaker rivals.

The history of the auto industry repeats this pattern. Records indicate that as many as 2,600 vehicle-making companies have been started in the U.S. since 1896, when brothers J. Frank Duryea and Charles Duryea launched Duryea Motor Wagon Co. in Springfield, Mass. “Some never really got off the ground, or made only one car,” says Mark Patrick, curator of the National Automotive History Collection at the Detroit Public Library.

Most of these companies were formed before 1929; the Great Depression wiped out scores of them. Others were bought out by larger competitors or couldn’t compete with mass producers such as Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. — the last remaining major U.S. car companies. Many just couldn’t muster the resources to survive. “They were undercapitalized,” Mr. Patrick says, “just like a lot of small companies today.”

What does this mean for the economy?
Stephen Jay Gould wrote a great book, Wonderful Life, talks about the Burgess Shale, and the wild proliferation of invertebrates it contains. He suggests that the fossil record supports a history in which at a point in time, a wild diversity of creatures suddenly appeared.

Most of them died out.

But the ones that survived were far better equipped to thrive.

The history of the American economy (and to a lesser extent, the European economy) has been driven by a number of things…a relatively benign climate, but one not so benign that survival is guaranteed, a geography that both encourages trade and requires that traders cover large distances to succeed (I’m making the ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel’ argument here) and the strength of the enterprises that managed to be created and flourish where logically they shouldn’t have.

This involves failure; the fact that we can’t predict winners means that we have to tolerate a number of losers in order to get the few that succeed. Losing is painful (just ask me…) and expensive (ditto), not only for the entrepreneur but for the employees of the startup that fails, or worse, of the established business that it displaces.

Politically, that is a bitter pill to swallow.

And those who are harmed use everything in their power to survive…including turning to the government and using their electoral and financial power to protect themselves.

Joseph Schumpeter laid it all out in his classic, if not-so-easy-to-read book, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy.

He argues that democracy is a prerequisite for a true capitalist system, but that it is also it’s downfall as the losers in the economic footrace begin to use the political system to protect themselves. The legitimacy of the political system is challenged, and ultimately a rational-bureaucratic state emerges. (I’m skimming a rich and deep argument into two sentences here; you really ought to go read the book, it’s far better than I’m making it out to be)

We’re seeing that here every day, as businesses work to use the government and its power to regulate to shield them from risk, or to force risk onto a competitor, and as unions try and use the power of government to buy benefits for their members. From the L.A. Times:

Legislators and the governor approved a contract for the state’s 23,000 guards last January that, in addition to a 34% pay increase over four years, has created a spiral of sick leave and overtime. Overtime hours have risen by 25% over the last two years, costing taxpayers $200 million in time-and-a-half pay, even as California faces a $34-billion budget shortfall.

That’s how 110 correctional officers earned more than $100,000 last year. Two guards made more than the director of the Department of Corrections and one, at $145,000, pulled in more than California’s attorney general. They racked up this overtime bonanza as state prison wardens worked to curb overtime by filling long-standing vacancies with 2,100 newly hired guards.

But with the ballooning state deficit triggering teacher layoffs and hospital closures, why on Earth did lawmakers agree to rules that force them to hand over wads of cash to correctional officers?

Part of the answer surely lies in the union’s political generosity, the $251,000 it gave to Davis’ reelection campaign and the $1 million it lavished on legislators and their causes last year. And the union isn’t shy about playing its soft-on-crime card against lawmakers who dare to defy it. But defy it they must. Anything else is one more slap in taxpayers’ faces.

When we legislate high-paying jobs, or when we regulate profits to corporations, we risk losing the flexibility and dynamism that lets our economy ‘learn’ the best way to do things.

Lest you start believing that I’m suddenly at risk of becoming a libertarian contributor to Samizdata, understand that in my world, a dynamic and failure-prone business world is not a bad thing. The specifics of what should be made and how are things which shouldn’t be ‘planned’ on a macro level.

But there is a crucial role for government in two areas: first, in mitigating the risk of business failure on households. Dickens’ London or the New York City of ‘Gangs of New York’ don’t represent the kinds of cities where many of us would want to live; second, in ‘fertilizing’ sectors of the economy … small or startup business through credit and regulation. The government should try and stay out of which business, or even which type of business succeeds, but the existence of a fertile breeding ground for future large businesses is, I believe a Good Thing for a variety of reasons.

By encouraging individuals and small businesses to take risk…both as a society and within our companies and organizations…we grow, and thereby minimize the overall risk to all of us.

It’s all about managing the risk.

This is Part I
Part II is here
This is Part III
Parts IV > VI aren’t written yet.

Self-making arguments

A while ago, I did a post on Armed Liberal called BOYCOTT FRANCE?? MAIS OUAIS!!; this was in response to the anti-Semitic comments from members of the French government, and the casual attitude of the French (at the time) toward anti-Semitic acts of violence and vandalism.

It’s been getting Googled a lot lately, for some reason, and I managed to annoy a couple of French commentators.

One in particular managed to make my point for me:

just checked your comments on WoC…
You’re obviously a dangerous extreme right fascist jew… I don’t talk to assassins like you.
Adieu, pauvre tache.

Posted by: La Djoolasse on February 19, 2003 04:26 PM

I replied:


Hey D’joulesse…thanks for making my point!

Just some facts to clarify things. I’m not Jewish. I lived in Paris for over a year, probably spent another year there over the next ten years, and spent a significant amount of time taking the RER into ‘les bains’; I was studing l’urbanisme at the time.

I’ll let my comment about connerie stand.


Posted by: Armed Liberal on February 19, 2003 04:52 PM

ly, I don’t blame all the French; I’ve met foolish people from the U.S.A as well. But I’ll note that one of the telling blows he struck was to call me a Jew…

…so no Michelin tires tonight, we’re buying Pirellis for the minivan instead.

[Update: a new comment from France:

What is nice with us, French people, is that we cannot think and write at the same time.

Bravo La Djoulasse !
You dare utter racist insults “dangerous extreme right fascist jew” and at the same time write “That doesn’t mean the all country is anti-Semite” ?

Explain the contradiction or should we understand that you think that a good jew is a dead jew? It is a very popular feeling among your friends in the “banlieues” today.

By the way I live in “St Denis” and the synagogue next door has been fire bombed twice in the last 4 months. Stop smoking “Le Monde” and open your eyes ! if you want to …

“There is no blinder person that the one who does not open his eyes to look!”

Posted by Jean Claude at February 20, 2003 12:31 AM

Thanks, Jean-Claude; I don’t doubt the fundamental decency and sense of the individual French citoyen, and I’m grateful to France for more than my two half-French sons.]

Risk (Part 1/6)

[Read Part 1: Risk | Part 2: Risky Business | Part 3: Risk & Reality | Part 4: Risk & Politics | Risk, Reality, & Bullsh-t ]

Sometimes I think my life is ruled by synchronicity (think Koestler, not Sting).

First, Bill Whittle does his lyrical piece on “Courage“.

Then it turns out that Tenacious G and the boys haven’t seen the Branagh ‘Henry V‘, so we jump it to the head of the Netflix queue, and it shows up in the mail. We watched it the other night, and it was still wonderful (Yes, Bacchus, I’m still supporting Branagh’s erotic reward). My boys loved it as well; Littlest Guy, who is six, wanted to watch it again the next day, and spent the time after bath and before bed wandering the house in his blue PJ’s-with-rocket-ships-and-feet and a stern look, declaiming “No King of England if not King of France.” I love my sons and they are wonderful, but they are a bit…odd, sometimes. Somehow that line over all the others had caught him, and he and I had a long discussion in which I explained that Henry wanted to be King of France, and that he was willing to risk losing England to get it.

Then, as a part of a possible venture I may do with an old friend, we had a long ‘strategy’ talk, in which one issue that we tried to address is our differing appetite for risk; he’s been incredibly (deservedly) successful, and as a consequence has capital he wants to preserve, while I’m trying to get to the point of having some capital to worry about losing.

And I had one of my frequent “aha!” moments, and I realized that the issue of courage is really inseparable from the issue of risk, and that we have, I believe some issues with risk in this society, and I think that those issues are of vital importance today.

– They are important to our self-understanding as people;
– They are important to understanding what is happing to our economy;
– They are important to our politics;
– Many of the social issues we face in America today center around different understandings of risk;
– And finally, our struggles over decisions about Iraq have much to do with our differing perceptions and reactions to risk.

This is going to be longer than I have time to do all at once, and doubtless than you have the patience to read in one sitting, so I will be putting up a stream of posts over the next few days (I’ll try and do one a day).

Here’s the outline:

1. Introduction (this one);
2. Risk in Business;
3. Risk and Recklessness in Society;
4. Risk in Politics;
5. Iraq and Risk.
6. Wrapup (and hopefully response to interesting comments)

Let me open with some comments.

For most of my adult life, I’ve been someone with a high tolerance for risk.

I’ve taken professional risks.

I’ve taken risks in relationships.

I’ve participated in risky sports; rock- and mountain-climbing, sailboat ocean racing, motorcycle sport riding and racing.

But I work hard to manage the risks that I take. While I’ve had some (spectacular) professional failures, the downside has been for the most part managed. The people whose relationships I’ve become serious about have stuck with me. And in my hobbies, I’ve worked hard to embody the best techniques and use the best tools to ensure my safety.

As a good example, when I ride my motorcycle, I wear protective gear from Aerostich, Z Leathers, Boehn, Shoei, Daytona, and Held. I’ve been to the best training I can find. I’m conscious and methodical about the risks take, and about the exposure to damage that those risks imply.

My pursuit of martial arts…including the shooting arts and other weapons arts…is in no small part aimed at managing my risk.

So I think about risk quite a bit. I don’t see myself as foolish (think of a helmetless rider on a 160mph motorcycle wearing a t-short, shorts, and Vans sneakers), I think of myself who is conscious of risk and who tries hard to manage it to acceptable levels.

I can’t imagine not taking risks. Not only would I would have missed some of the best experiences of my life, but I can’t imagine looking at risks as ‘black or white’ rather that examining their subtleties and looking at them as objectively as I know how. To me, that is real safety. Ignoring risks, or shying away from them, isn’t.

What I see in many people is a simple shying away from risk. I see it ly, as people are unwilling to open themselves to relationships for fear of being hurt – and then soak in the pain of their loneliness. I see it in business where people in organizations won’t take the risk of speaking out, even when silence imposes greater long-term risks on their organization and so their job. I see it in people’s lives, as we increasingly try and mummy ourselves in increasing layers of padding designed to keep us from the sharp corners of the world.

I followed a van today; the signs on it explained that it was the ‘Babyproofing Man’. So we hire someone to put plastic caps on the sharp corners of our homes, and try and raise our children in cocoons where risk can be managed away.

It can’t be.

Our children are always at risk, and we can’t protect them everywhere and forever.

What we can do is to teach them to think clearly about risk, and learn to control it themselves.

There’s a telling little scene in the book and movie ‘Black Hawk Down’, in which one of the Delta operators at Mogadishu is dressed down by a regular Army NCO for not having ‘safed’ his weapon. The operator looks at the NCO and wags his index finger in his face.

“This is my safety.”

Consider this my finger wagging in your face, asking what you see as your safety.

…to be continued.

Part I is here
This is Part II
This is Part III
Parts IV > VI aren’t written yet.