Eric Weinstein and Jocko Willink discuss the reality of war
On the latest episode of The Portal, the two men talk about the consequences of a public being shielded from battle.
- On The Portal, Eric Weinstein discusses the consequences of Americans not seeing the reality of the wars we wage.
- His guest, former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink, says that every war ensures that innocent civilians will die.
- Both men agree that the public should be exposed to the reality of war instead of being shielded from it.
Just over halfway through their concert in Los Angeles last week, Bristol-based Massive Attack played a cover of Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" The eclectic set included renditions of The Cure, Bauhaus, The Velvet Underground, even Avicii, as well as the entirety of the band's landmark record, Mezzanine. Yet the ambient, acoustic Seeger cover, featuring Liz Fraser on vocals, was unique not only for its sonic temperament, but also the visual montage displayed on the Palladium's three giant screens.
Growing out of the UK's graffiti culture in the eighties, Massive Attack has always been political. Discomfort was on overload during Seeger's somber track, with close-up videos of murdered civilians in Iraq and eerie clips of Trump and Putin merged into a single being. The tension was palpable, the crowd howling. The montage ended with a gaze at America's opioid addiction as the band segued into "Inertia Creeps," the perfect song for displaying "Oxycontin" and "Fentanyl" over and over in stark white letters over an ominous black background.
The message: Americans aren't the best at self-reflection.
Unlike most musicians, the members of Massive Attack don't address the crowd. No introductions or chatter about being happy to be performing. The music and mixed media does all the talking. As with the thick walls of sonic tension arising from the live renditions of trip-hop, the band has no qualms holding up a mirror to this society. The question is: Why are Americans so uncomfortable witnessing the price of our "freedom?"
Similar questions were put forward by Eric Weinstein to his latest podcast guest, former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink. During the two-hour conversation, the men discussed the consequences of the American public being shielded from the reality of war.
Discussing Vietnam on The Portal, Willink says that stepping back to look at the visuals of murder punches you in the stomach. It forces you to question the necessity of war, especially when it concerns the death of innocent civilians—an unavoidable fate. Willink isn't claiming there should never be war—when needed, "go to war and win"—but visually seeing carnage forces a society to better understand the costs.
Extreme Ownership | Jocko Willink | TEDxUniversityofNevada
Weinstein believes we each have personal responsibility to investigate the consequences of our actions.
"I think that it is irresponsible of us as a nation to allow this much insulation of the home front from the raw facts of what we're doing abroad. If you take my assessment that the United States is the most dangerous machine ever constructed, we do not have the right to wield that power if we're not interested in what it looks like and what it means."
A mature relationship with your country means recognizing the horrors your country perpetuates. It means knowing that any time your government deploys troops, some tragedies are going to occur within the population being attacked.
Willink replies that two forms of will are needed in war. The first is the will to kill, not only your enemy, but collateral damage as well. "If you think you can pull off a war without killing innocent people, you're wrong." This puts the onus of the "why" on every soldier's shoulders. The reason behind the war has to be justified.
The will to die is also required. If you're not prepared to face this potential outcome, "you have to stop and think about what you're doing."
Weinstein pivots to the media's role in accurately portraying information to the public—including photographs. News outlets have long shied from the actual casualties of war even though, as Willink says, there are hundreds of thousands of photographs online of what we've done in Iraq.
Weinstein recalls the infamous "Falling Man," which is making the rounds this week on the anniversary of 9/11, of one of the many people that jumped from the towers before they collapsed. He notes that it ran once in a morning edition, then was effectively banned from publication. "It didn't become the iconic photograph of 9/11."
Beyond the toppling statue of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Americans have few visual memories of what we've been doing for nearly two decades (outside of the Abu Ghraib torture photos), whereas from Vietnam we have the same set of ten photos "seared into our minds." Weinstein concludes,
"It seems to me that we're developing a fragility as a people that is incompatible with our lethality."
A soldier from the Korean White Horse Division, on an offensive north of Bong Son, kneels beside the bedraggled mother and children of a suspected Vietcong family, huddled at the edge of a field. Vietnam, 1966.
Photo by © Tim Page/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Weinstein then invokes the Mexican cartel drug wars on our southern border. In 2018, 35,000 people died in these undiscussed battles occurring just miles from our nation, yet few Americans understand the violence involved (or the ways in which America is implicated, such as our addictions fueling the illegal trade).
Willink states that it is likely that Americans are simply refusing to click on the links associated with these wars, though Weinstein holds the media accountable for refusing to publish them. If we were regularly shown what other nations are experiencing, perhaps our collective empathy could be invoked. Then we would hold politicians sending troops to war accountable. At the moment, that's not happening on any broad level.
Instead, the media focuses on America's interior bubbles, splitting every topic into left and right. Little is said of the protective glass covering the entire nation. We'd rather not look, so we're not shown. Reality isn't clickbaity enough. A vicious circle continues.
I've thought long about this topic, having practiced and taught yoga for decades. Inside of some studios you'll hear the airiest of philosophies: the universe is conspiring in your favor, love is at the root of our nature, we're peaceful at heart, and so on. Such sentiments could only be spouted in a culture of privilege. I often wonder how many yogis recognize that the only reason we're able to spout these ideas is due to having the military force on the planet.
Historically, yoga and war were intertwined; one reading of the Bhagavad Gita is enough to recognize that. Amazingly, modern yogis cite those passages as pure metaphor, displaying blatant ignorance of the historical society that created that document. We rewrite the past to suit our present desires.
And that's a shame, for all of us. Empathy is only possible through understanding. Media companies earn ad revenue from ego-driven clickbait, not the murder of innocent children trapped in the crossfire. Sadly, it appears the only way we learn is when wars occur on our soil—a reality we haven't faced for over 150 years. Ignorance remains bliss for those doing the ignoring.
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live this Thursday at 1pm ET.
Scientists discover the inner workings of an effect that will lead to a new generation of devices.
- Researchers discover a method of extracting previously unavailable information from superconductors.
- The study builds on a 19th-century discovery by physicist Edward Hall.
- The research promises to lead to a new generation of semiconductor materials and devices.
Credit: Gunawan/Nature magazine
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The images and our best computer models don't agree.
A trio of intriguing galaxy clusters<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzNDA0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTkzNzUyOH0.0IRzkzvKsmPEHV-v1dqM1JIPhgE2W-UHx0COuB0qQnA/img.jpg?width=980" id="d69be" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2d2664d9174369e0a06540cb3a3a9079" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The three galaxy clusters imaged for the study
Mapping dark matter<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d904b585c806752f261e1215014691a6"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fO0jO_a9uLA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The assumption has been that the greater the lensing effect, the higher the concentration of dark matter.</p><p>As scientists analyzed the clusters' large-scale lensing — the massive arc and elongation visual effects produced by dark matter — they noticed areas of smaller-scale lensing within that larger distortion. The scientists interpret these as concentrations of dark matter within individual galaxies inside the clusters.</p><p>The researchers used spectrographic data from the VLT to determine the mass of these smaller lenses. <a href="https://www.oas.inaf.it/en/user/pietro.bergamini/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Pietro Bergamini</a> of the INAF-Observatory of Astrophysics and Space Science in Bologna, Italy explains, "The speed of the stars gave us an estimate of each individual galaxy's mass, including the amount of dark matter." The leader of the spectrographic aspect of the study was <a href="http://docente.unife.it/docenti-en/piero.rosati1/curriculum?set_language=en" target="_blank">Piero Rosati</a> of the Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Italy who recalls, "the data from Hubble and the VLT provided excellent synergy. We were able to associate the galaxies with each cluster and estimate their distances." </p><p>This work allowed the team to develop a thoroughly calibrated, high-resolution map of dark matter concentrations throughout the three clusters.</p>
But the models say...<p>However, when the researchers compared their map to the concentrations of dark matter computer models predicted for galaxies bearing the same general characteristics, something was <em>way</em> off. Some small-scale areas of the map had 10 times the amount of lensing — and presumably 10 times the amount of dark matter — than the model predicted.</p><p>"The results of these analyses further demonstrate how observations and numerical simulations go hand in hand," notes one team member, <a href="https://nena12276.wixsite.com/elenarasia" target="_blank">Elena Rasia</a> of the INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Trieste, Italy. Another, <a href="http://adlibitum.oats.inaf.it/borgani/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Stefano Borgani</a> of the Università degli Studi di Trieste, Italy, adds that "with advanced cosmological simulations, we can match the quality of observations analyzed in our paper, permitting detailed comparisons like never before."</p><p>"We have done a lot of testing of the data in this study," Meneghetti says, "and we are sure that this mismatch indicates that some physical ingredient is missing either from the simulations or from our understanding of the nature of dark matter." <a href="https://physics.yale.edu/people/priyamvada-natarajan" target="_blank">Priyamvada Natarajan</a> of Yale University in Connecticut agrees: "There's a feature of the real Universe that we are simply not capturing in our current theoretical models."</p><p>Given that any theory in science lasts only until a better one comes along, Natarajan views the discrepancy as an opportunity, saying, "this could signal a gap in our current understanding of the nature of dark matter and its properties, as these exquisite data have permitted us to probe the detailed distribution of dark matter on the smallest scales."</p><p>At this point, it's unclear exactly what the conflict signifies. Do these smaller areas have unexpectedly high concentrations of dark matter? Or can dark matter, under certain currently unknown conditions, produce a tenfold increase in lensing beyond what we've been expecting, breaking the assumption that more lensing means more dark matter?</p><p>Obviously, the scientific community has barely begun to understand this mystery.</p>
Scientists have found evidence of hot springs near sites where ancient hominids settled, long before the control of fire.