Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The Value of Our Values

Following on this article and the discussion of effective means, it is important to discuss the value of our values. This can turn into a long philosophical discussion, but my focus is on what should be understood in terms of our values as effective means to achieve fundamental objectives. To do this, we must understand first the effect of our values on interpreting facts before we select means.

When analyzing a situation, we bring our values to the analysis, often without noticing it, and this can color our analysis in various ways. Let's look at some historical examples. Most reasonable people would agree that peace is preferred to warfare and that when examining the historical record of a society at peace, we tend to admire the accomplishments of that society. This exemplifies the confusion of our fundamental values and objectives with our relative values and means. For the AI literate, think goals and subgoals and inheritable properties.

There is the case of the Chaco Canyon pueblos and the builders of these large and impressive buildings, the Anasazi. While many archaeologists and sociologists study the collapse of this civilization in the San Juan Basin of New Mexico, others study the reason for its rise, particularly, how was it organized and what motivated the building of the large ceremonial centers. Interestingly, when these were abandoned, they were burned. Even if drought and famine were causes for abandoning these, why were they burned?

Christy Turner proposes a simple explanation: cannibalism. Even more interesting is that the signature of the bones and other artifacts found at the sites incline Turner to suggest that a group of Central Americans from the area of what is now Mexico invaded the area of the Chaco Canyon and used the brutality of their culture to subdue the diverse and warring natives to submit to their rule and their terrifying religion. While the perpetrators and causes are debated, the Bones Test is fairly conclusive. Cannibalism and brutality were practiced at a possibly large scale and in an organized and systematic fashion. If so, burning the ceremonial centers once the freedom to do so was achieved is an understandable reaction. They weren't defensible and this population had come to understand the need for defense from their neighbors.

The evidence for the invasion is considered scanty by other archaeologists but there is much evidence of unthinkable brutality followed by a mass exodus during which the Anasazi became cliff dwellers. This is not unlike the strategy of the inhabitants of the Aegean islands who also retreated to the inhospitable cliffs to build villages during a series of invasions by the so-called Sea Peoples during the Bronze Age.

Brutality can be a very effective means of social control. We have many modern examples of this. What looked to the original investigators of the Chaco Canyon excavation and the Mayan digs as examples of a noble period of peace turn out to be peace by terror. This isn't rare. Archaeologists project their own values on to the surface evidence and as a result, can come to exactly the wrong conclusions about means.

Objective evaluation means we deal with the facts and not the spin. The recent 9/11 Commission hearings following the publication of the report have shown abundant examples of authorities attempting to spin the interpretation of the reports in favor of their own political careers. Yet as one lady who is a member of the group of families of the victims of 9/11, and whose persistence forced the creation of the commission over the objections of political incumbents noted, "Anyone who reads even the first fifty pages is mad. The jig is up. You have to do something now."

I digress, but I want to note that at the root of value-focused thinking is the concept that hidden objectives and confusing means objectives for fundamental objectives are primary causes of value systems that drift over time. Given situations of global importance, we must acquire and deal with the facts before we do the Bones Test to determine means. History is only a good teacher when it is a true history.

Peace itself as an objective can be attained by different means and the most stunning observations come of asking oneself:

  • How many historical examples of peace emerging by consent of the governed are there, and if this is rare, why?


  • What are the effects of means once the objective is achieved?


  • I leave the reader to ponder the first questions, but the second question has relevance to the events of recent years. Peace created by brutal means typically results in the emergence of a criminal element following the removal of the agents of such means. We can look to the former Soviet Republics, to the current situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and compare these to our own American historical experiences for examples. If we are to do better in the future we have to pay attention to and draw insights from the results of improper means at odds with fundamental objectives.

    In the practice of law enforcement, and really, any governance where the governed do not consent by self-motivated cause, the use of force applied without regard to consequence has very predictable results. Further, when force is applied, the perception of the values of the leadership of the dominating force plays a powerful role in shaping the behaviors of the dominated when that force is withdrawn.

    Understanding this is crucial to how America uses its power in the world and within its own borders. Let's look at a recent examples in the USA.

    During the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference attempted to desegregate Albany, Georgia. Here, King found that the perception of non-violence could be played both ways. Dr. King had

    ".. a formidable opponent in Albany police chief Laurie Pritchett. Pritchett ostensibly practiced the nonviolence that King preached, ordering his officers to avoid brutality, at least when the TV cameras and news reporters were present. Prepared for the waves of marchers King encouraged, Pritchett had them arrested and sent off to jails in the surrounding counties, including Baker, Mitchell, and Lee.

    In the end King ran out of willing marchers before Pritchett ran out of jail space. Once again King got himself arrested, and once again he was let go. By early August it was clear that King had proved ineffective in bringing about change in Albany, but he had learned the important lessons that he and the SCLC would carry to Birmingham."

    Dr. King believed that he had failed, although "black voter registration efforts were so successful that, two months after King left Albany, African American businessman Thomas Chatmon secured enough votes in the election for a city commission seat to force a run-off election. The following spring the city commission removed all the segregation statutes from its books." It would be in Birmingham, Alabama that Dr. King would find the perfect foil for the strategy of using non-violent protest to incite unwarranted use of force in the person of "Birmingham's public safety commissioner Eugene T. "Bull" Connor" who "advocated violence against freedom riders and ordered fire hoses and police dogs turned on demonstrators." While Sheriff Pritchett was no shining example of a man of justice, he was not an idiot who did not understand the strategy being played out in Albany or the effects of such means when "the whole world is watching."

    Cultures and attitudes can change but they don't change all at once and in all places. It has taken the continuous pressure of the U.S. Federal government over many years in many places to change the American attitudes toward race. As someone who was born and grew up in Alabama during the period of desegregation, I thank God for such changes as have come about. Yet racism and violence continue to this day and that brings us to the next example of the use of force as ineffective and effective means.

    Some six and half months before the event that would dominate global news and preoccupy the American people and government to this day, an event of some importance occurred. In April 2001, the city of Cincinnati experienced race riots on a scale so shocking that participants labeled it a 'race war'. There are differing interpretations of the causes and effects but there are some clear patterns and facts.

    The Kerner Commission in 1968 and the mayoral report of 1979 concluded that the police and city officials did not care about incidents of police misconduct, particularly, the use of force. The 1981 report of the United States Commission on Civil Rights accused the Cincinnati police of discriminatory hiring practices and again criticized the lack of standards for use of force. Although the city, under Federal pressure, did hire blacks to the police force, in a 1995 case of brutality against a black student, the police review panel concluded that racism persisted in the force because of 'a reluctance to institute necessary organizational and procedural reforms.' From 1995 to 2001, there were fifteen fatal police shootings of black men and none of whites. When the riots erupted, they were fierce and almost unstoppable. It was the weather turning cold and rainy that finally stopped the action, not the law enforcement agencies.

    Some facts are worthy of notice:

    1. Of the fifteen, 14 were justifiable.
    2. Sustaining the action was in part due to outside agencies helping to organize the riots, of note, the Nation of Islam and the New Black Panthers.
    3. While the press called this a race riot, the rioters called it a war.

    Regardless of the actions leading up to the event, once in motion, the facts did not matter. Over time, the brutality of the local police agencies had built up an insurmountable tinder and once lit, it sustained an incredibly destructive use of force.

    The Department of Justice under Ashcroft investigated the matter and came to the conclusion that the remedy was precisely to modify the behavior of the use of force. In an earlier effort to combat racial profiling in Montgomery County, Maryland, the Reno department monitored traffic citations to detect patterns of racial profiling. This was not as effective because while one can use police report management systems to detect such patterns, changing a belief system is a difficult thing to do.

    Modifying a behavior is a well-understood science known as operant conditioning. A feedback loop based on an observable behavior resulting in a predictable reward over a predictable time is established and monitored. This will shape the behavior to the desired state. Then, it is a matter of sustaining that behavior once the controls are removed. If the clear policies for the use of force are reflected in the gathering and analysis of incident reports in the police records management system, the desired behavior will be sustained.

    After the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit, the Department of Justice and the city of Cincinnati signed a Memorandum of Agreement that set out conditions for reporting on any incident that involved the use of force. Strict policies were put in place to analyze and report on these incidents. Under the MOA, once the City could demonstrate for a specified period of time that the behaviors of the officers conformed to the policies for use of force, the City would be released from the agreement. This is an effective use of minimum control to modify a behavior. As an example of the use of force, it is dramatically effective.

    One can read the ongoing quarterly reports from the DOJ monitor online. Remarkably and to the City and the police department's credit, this is working. This is an effective means.

    Before concluding, I want to draw the attention of the readers to one more lesson from history. When Cortez marched on the Aztec rulers, he defeated a force much larger than the meager group of Spanish Conquistadors he brought with him. Some have speculated that it was superior fire power and tactics by the Spaniards, and others the diseases to which the native Americans had no resistance that were responsible for his success. These are not the facts. The fact was that the Aztecs had brutalized the native population and used them in ceremonial rituals of sacrifice for some generations. As in Chaco Canyon, brutality had ruled a people. Cortez found it a simple matter to go to the neighboring peoples and recruit them to his cause. When he marched on Tenochititlan, it was an easy victory because he had found a force multiplier in the hatred these people felt for their rulers.

    "The enemy of my enemy is my friend. A statement of intent is the surest indicator that an attempt will be made." These are words to the wise for those with ears to hear them about the war on global terrorism.

    To conclude:

    1. As George H.W. Bush noted about the first Gulf War, the use of force must be governed by clear policies before it is applied.

    2. As noted in operant conditioning texts, use of negative reinforcement typically results in subsequent negative behavior even once the behavior to which the force was applied is extinguished. We must use positive means, sustain them, and pay the price of monitoring subsequent behaviors. Examples such as the monitoring of elections by groups led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter have proven the power of this means.

    3. If America is to be a respected leader in the free world, its acts and its values must be in accord. We must not confuse means as fundamental objectives and the actions of our leaders must clearly reflect our values.

    The value of our values is that they shape our objectives. If we are not clear about these objectives, then it is clear that our values have become confused as well. Until we can clarify these and communicate them to each other, we will continue to confuse the means of achieving peace with the acts of a peaceful nation. Doing this, our enemies will grow because they will discover the means to use our greatest strength, our fundamental value of the individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to trap us into a generation of conflict by making us unreasonably fearful of losing them.

    While the use of force can be justified and be a reasonable means, it can also be an unreasonable objective if it does not produce a just and lasting peace. Our policies and our acts must reflect this understanding because once the conflict is in motion, the facts may not matter, and there are no cliffs we can live on that are high enough to protect us.

    2 comments:

    Scott Edwards said...

    As a special token of my appreciation for all your kind help and the wonderful business you have sent my way---I want to give you a free gift.
    It is called the "$25000.00 Idea". It will help you in all your endeavors.
    Click here: FREE GIFT

    Maryland Mortgages said...

    Thanks for all the great comments and insights..By the way, are you looking for more information on estate gaithersburg maryland real ..If so here is a fantastic resource for everything related to loan matters and estate gaithersburg maryland real with information, products, articles and more..Check it out here...http://www.homesinfoguy.com

    Comment Policy

    If you don't sign it, I won't post it. To quote an ancient source: "All your private property is target for your enemy. And your enemy is me."