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Semiformalishmaybe

More Egyption Riot News

Things continue to escalate in Egypt — the army is active in Cairo, but the police are not capable of controlling things; looters have visited museums to alternatively smash and steal things, while neighbourhoods have organised citizens' police to protect their stuff.

This is one of the uglier sides of human nature — while I believe that many people are truly civilised and don't need in their daily life the idea that state power will punish them for antisocial acts, there are enough people who are not so civilised who absent the immediate prospect of punishment embrace their id, smashing things for fun, seeking profit in ways societally unacceptable, raping, killing, etc. This bothers me — I find it much more curious when it occasionally comes up in debate with some religious people — "were it not for god's punishment hanging over me, I would do $HORRIBLE_THINGS". I usually charitably classify that as an argumentitive tack — I would hope that at least the habits of caring for and being good to each other are present in them and would survive the clearing of (what I consider to be) their delusions. It certainly doesn't make me respect them when I hear that though (to be fair, it is very rare that I've met moral absolutists who really understand moral relativism, and without that conceptual shift the idea is probably really scary). Still, I think one of the duties of a good society is to really civilise its people to the point where they identify with each other and their system enough that they not only don't want to do $HORRIBLE_THINGS, they have some basic desire to do $NON_SELF_CENTRED_THINGS. Why? Because we care about each other, and care about the public good.

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they not only don't want to do $HORRIBLE_THINGS, they have some basic desire to do $NON_SELF_CENTRED_THINGS. Why? Because we care about each other, and care about the public good.

there's this quote, of course:

The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.

more interestingly, though, i've found that doing good things for strangers (or society at large) is a good way to exercise your capacity for being good to yourself and your friends too. not really sure why - maybe it's a mood thing.
I like that quote — where's it from?

Maybe pets help us train our niceness too.
apparently samuel johnson said it, but also apparently he did not say it. i don't know where i heard it from myself.

that's probably true.
Apparently Al Jazeera was reporting that there were looters that turned out to be some sort of secret police, trying to discredit the protesters.
I'm slightly surprised that Al Jazeera is taking such a strong tack against all the other Arab governments - as an instrument of the Qarari Emir, I'd expect them to be a bit more cautious, both because they aim to be culturally eminent and because they're autocratic too (even if in a mostly benign way.

I wonder if they're right about the looters.