Here is the first chapter of the book After the Terror , published in September 2002 by Edinburgh University Press in Britain and by way of Columbia University Press in America. The book has to do with terrorism, not only the terrorism of September 11 but also other possible and conceivable terrorism as well as state-terrorism. It has as much to do with ourselves, those of us in America, Britain and like places who live well and enjoy the great goods. In particular it has to do with our omissions. It has to do too with our counter-attack after September 11 in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and with what is to be done now. It is moral philosophy opposed to what can seem to be self-serving distinctions. This first chapter is called `Good Lives, Bad Lives'. Those that follow are `Natural and Other Morality', which has to do with the ordinary fact and practice of morality and philosophers' worked-out moralities, `Did We Wrong Them? Do We Wrong Them?', which compares our omissions to a certain terrible act, 'The Twin Towers, and Democracy', partly about why September 11 was wrong and definitions of terrorism, and 'Our Responsibility, and What To Do', about our own moral standing and the augmenting of our hierarchic democracy. The last chapter also touches on a commission as against our omissions, the prolonged violation of the existence of the Palestinians.
CHAPTER 1: GOOD LIVES, BAD LIVES
What is a good life? For a start, a good life is one that goes on long enough. A short life may be good while it lasts, may be a sweet thing in the memory of others. But if it is only half the length it should have been, if it is cut down to that, it is not a good life. A good life might be as long as one you know that comes back to mind, maybe like the life of my father, who departed during his afternoon nap. It might be 75 years.
Lasting 75 years, of course, cannot by itself make a life a good one. If it was filled with disappointments, let alone dragged down by sorrows or defeats, it would not be a good life. You can do more than wonder if some lives would have been better if they had been shorter, not prolonged. Some are rightly shortened by their owners. Each of us ought in the end to have the right in morality and law of ending our existence.
So how long a life goes on does not by itself make it a good one. But is there a mistake in saying that living long enough is one part of a good life? No, living longer is a good thing for almost everyone. This is shown by the fact that a life may not be a good one at all but very likely will be better than nothing to its owner. Whatever thought an aged aunt reveals, maybe that she's had a full life and a good time and doesn't mind departing, almost all of us want to go on in a life. This is, isn't it, our first and then our constant and then our last desire? Some call it the instinct of self-preservation. Few of us are so unfortunate as ever really to prefer not being alive. Almost all of us want to go on even if things are bad, even terrible. Hardly anyone chooses to be missing .
Can we then say that living longer is an intrinsic good for almost everyone -- that is, something good in itself rather than as a means to something else? So it seems, certainly if we take living in our ordinary way. It is not just being alive, as a plant is alive. Nor is it just the idea of being conscious, of there being a personal world, although that is essential and important. Rather, the idea we have of living includes some elementary satisfaction having to do with existing rather than just being conscious, maybe the satisfaction of taking things in and watching them change, and conducting small matters of daily life, and having the hope of going on in this way for a while.
This is not the different and more ambitious thing we have in mind in ordinarily speaking of wanting the quality of our lives to be good, wanting a better quality of life. Maybe that has to do with getting a summer cottage, or one on a better lake. But just going on living, living longer, is certainly more than desirable. If it does need to be distinguished from much else that we also want, it is indeed for almost all of us an intrinsic good. We want it for itself, whether or not it is a means to anything else. The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus tells us not to worry about death, because it itself isn't experienced -- where you are, your death isn't, and where it is, you aren't. Only impressionable logicians are consoled.
Living longer isn't a small or smaller intrinsic good idea either, like feeling the warm sun on your shoulders or a happy conversation or having something off your mind after a couple of years. It's a very large thing, so large that you can say this elementary living-of-a-life, in the absence of anything else, can fill a mind, fill a life. We want it a lot. We fight for it, usually quietly. It is not only an intrinsic but a great good .
Being rational, at least in this matter, we in a way want something else as much. This is the means to the end, the means to living longer. The means to living longer are shelter, satisfactory food and drink, health, safety and the like, not too much real stress and strain. Part of their importance, if not all, is that they are necessary means if I am to avoid that alternative to living that is nothing at all. But it is not only that my own living longer is a large intrinsic good or satisfaction to me, and that therefore I greatly value the means to the end.
Here is another fact. Someone else's living longer may be the same to me. It may even be more to me. It is our ordinary nature to want our children to live longer, and of course to want them to have the means to that end. Do I not know a lot of people who give up a lot in their lives for their children, perhaps for their long-term lovers? To stick to exactly the subject, do I not know a lot of people who would secure more living-time for their children at the cost of shorter lives for themselves? They want more of existence for their children more than they want more of it for themselves. You can think this is something to give us some pride in humankind.
Are there counter-examples to these propositions about the great good of living longer? The killers who flew the airliners into the Twin Towers may come to mind. They chose not only to destroy the lives of so many others, but also to shorten their own. They did the mediaevally awful thing that they did, we are told, in religious confidence of a life to come, in confidence of immortality. If that is really true, whatever else is to be said of them, they of course were choosing not to shorten their existence, but rather to prolong it indefinitely. Their terrible acts, whatever else is to be said of them, do not count against the proposition that living longer is a great good to which we want the means.
Shall we think instead, as I am at least half-inclined to, that the killers of September 11 were not likely to have been certain in an ordinary sense of having lives after death? That they were not likely to have had a literal belief in a personal life after death? Such a literal belief is not common, even among the religious. Asserting such a belief it is perhaps as likely to be a matter of hope, or of stiffening one's resolve, or of moral and political self-proclamation. But put September 11 aside for a while.
It certainly is a fact that some men and women throughout history have given up their lives for a great or anyway a necessary cause, the cause of their people, a cause that we can take to be have been great or necessary. Many hunger strikers have carried on to the end, and at least some of them did so without any belief in immortality. This fact goes together with more ordinary but relevant facts of serious risk-taking, say in war or in the protection of others in accidents or in rescue attempts. Some of us DO sacrifice our lives. Captain Oates walked out into Antarctica saying he would be gone for some time.
Come to think of it, I daresay quite a few Americans, and not all of them related to the victims, would have given up their lives, committed suicide, to prevent what happened at the Twin Towers. There isn't much doubt about that. There are ordinary suicides too, quite a lot of them.
All these facts need to be granted, but they are consistent with the truth that living longer, going on existing, is a great thing wanted for itself by almost all of us, and that we also want the means to it.
There is a second truth, of the same size. It is that living longer is not only an end or intrinsic good, and a great good, but also itself a means to other things -- to things that make for a good life. Certainly we do not only want to live longer. A good life is also one that has in it what living longer gives us more of -- well-being, happiness, fulfillment, contentment, or something on the way to these. A good life involves, more particularly, great goods in addition to living longer. For you, these are things possessed by yourself and those who are close to you. They are satisfactions different from the elementary one of existing. These too are intrinsic goods, whatever further use they also are.
One is a quality of life in something like the sense put aside in passing above. This is a general quality of life that can be secured by, and more or less defined by, the possession of familiar material means. It is physical well-being tied to certain material goods. Some of these means are nearly as old as our kind, say a private place to live, and more and different food than is necessary to sustain life. A place to sit, maybe a cushion. Something to drink other than water. Other things that make for a decent quality of life in this sense are means of alleviating pain, or some of it, and help in dealing with disability, and protection from common dangers, and maybe the means of travelling a bit. There are also the well-advertised means that now have the name of being consumer-goods. They can come to seem to be necessities. They are easier to be superior about if you have a lot of them.
In addition to this physical well-being based on certain material goods, there are four other great goods to which living longer is also a means -- at any rate by my way of counting. One, whether or not more important than the others to follow, or more important than physical well-being, has to do with freedom and power of various kinds, to which can be added safety. There is also respect and self-respect, and private and public relationships with others, and the satisfactions of culture, including religion and diversion. This is one way of getting much of a good life into focus. More of these five great goods is better than fewer of them, and more of each one is better than less. That is so, at any rate, for the overwhelming majority of us who have not reached real satiety.
As you have heard, living longer is a means to these other parts of a good life, a necessary condition. It is necessary for you to live longer in order to have a goodly amount. That amount, I guess, is one familiar in a kind of life known to me and many others, in apartments and houses in places like London, New Haven, Brooklyn, Toronto and Somerset. You can end up with a swimming pool.
So much for the great good that is living longer oneself, and one's family or close person also living longer, say to about 75. So much too for this being a means to the other great goods. So much for those other goods themselves, beginning with physical well-being tied to having certain material things. Let us now look at the extent to which these human desires are realized, some details, both in the apartments and houses we know about and also elsewhere.
Half-Lives and Under-Fives
Some people, because of their societies, have average lifetimes of about 78 years. Some other people, because of their different societies, live on average about 40 years. That is to say that the first group have lives of very different lengths, of which the average is about 78. Some individuals bring the average up, some bring it down. So with the second group -- they have different lengths of life, averaging about 40.
It is of course necessary not to drift towards thinking instead of two groups of people, one with all its members dying at 78 and one with all its members dying at 40. The two groups defined by the averages can have in them people dying at every age. What it comes to, you can say, is that fewer members of the second group get through each stage of life, say boyhood, young womanhood, parenthood, working life, early retirement.
What the thing comes to, you can also say, more to the point, is that many people in the second group, those people who pull its average down to 40 rather than lift it up to that, have half-lives at best . That is a proper summary of their difference from the first group.
The distance between the two averages is great, and conveys a great deal about living-time. The average lifetimes of 78 and 40 could suggest to someone overhearing this talk of lifetimes, but not knowing exactly our subject, that we are concerned with two different species. The elephant and the horse, if you know about that sort of thing. The numbers of people involved are also very large. About 44 million in the unlucky group that includes half-lives. About 736 million in the first group.
The first group are in fact the populations of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark and Japan. The second group are the populations of the African countries of Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Sierra Leone.
A certain statistic about a first stage of life is sometimes given attention. It is taken to be a large or very significant part of the explanation of the averages of 78 and 40 years for the two groups. Sometimes it is taken to be more of the explanation than it is. In any case, you may think this fact is of significance for itself. It is a difference having to do with children.
With respect to the first group of people, the Americans and the rest of us, the number of children who die under the age of five, for each 1,000 live births, is only about five or six . Another good thing in itself, you might say. With respect to the second group of people, those in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Sierra Leone, things are different. Have a look at the table of figures. For every 1,000 children born alive, no less than about 200 die under the age of five. A dark fact. An evil, to make less contentious use of a term than some do.
The dark fact and the half-lives should move you, and so it is not too soon, reader, to say what is being asked of you now. Whatever our eventual conclusions, it is not that you should already be contemplating certain judgements having to do with the dying children and the low average lifetimes. You are not being prompted or elbowed towards or into moral judgements, reflections or feelings, let alone moralizing.
That is, whatever our eventual conclusions, you are not being prompted by me to be on the way to judging seemingly relevant actions -- actions, practices, ways of running things, policies and institutions of those of us in the first group as against the second. You are not being asked to judge that what we and our governments and corporations have done or not done with respect to the short lifetimes and the dying children is wrong -- that our actions and the like ought to have been different, that we could reasonably expect bad effects.
Nor are you asked to make connected but different judgements, not on exactly our actions and the like but on us. One of these would take us as responsible for the dying children and the short lifetimes. That is, it would take us to be causes of those facts -- trace them back at least partly to us, regard us as human causes of them.
There is an ambiguity there that is worth getting into focus in anticipation of things to come. You can take someone as responsible for something before you have any idea as to the goodness or badness of the thing -- all you believe is that it was owed to him and his intention. But you can also take someone as responsible for an action or its effect and mean not only that they intentionally initiated it. You also mean either that it was a bad thing and they are therefore to be disapproved of or worse for it, or it was a good thing and they are to be approved of for it -- they are to be held responsible or credited with responsibility. As a result of these attitudes, they may be blamed, condemned or punished, or praised and rewarded.
As I say, it is too soon to be judging actions or judging persons for them with respect to the dying children and the short lives. It is also too soon for another sort of thing that moral philosophers have distinguished, often speaking here the good man , to which we now need to add the good woman. This is judging us not with respect to particular actions, practices and so on, but judging our general worth as persons, our general moral standing. You are not asked to judge that our whole lives and natures, to which all our actions and activities are relevant, have been selfish and low or human or decent or whatever.
It may be, for all I intend to convey by the figures, that all our lives in both groups are as they have to be. In particular, that we and our politicians and boards of directors and international finance couldn't be or do otherwise. That it actually is true, as the 17th Century philosopher and metaphysician Leibniz bravely supposed, that of all the possible worlds that there might have been, this is the best one -- our world is the best possible world. That the many shorter lives are not the avoidable little upshots of our chosen foreign policies and our economic organizing. There is a long tradition of political thought, incidentally, a kind of conservatism, that includes and rests on just those thoughts.
This book is an inquiry in which you are asked to participate. It is an inquiry into terrorism and ourselves, although one brought on by the shock of September 11, 2001, when all with television sets were present for the killing. An evil of another kind -- some say moral rather than natural. Also the aftershocks of September 11. One was that the thing seen on the screen was possible, the mediaeval horror without any of the respectability we attach to our wars, or our side in our wars. Also, even more of the same was possible, since some restraining god was dead.
Another aftershock was hearing what was said quietly around the world, despite the horror and the automatism of our leaders. It was said, not just in cosmopolitan London but in Somerset too, that the Americans had it coming, that they were getting some of their own back. They would have to learn and change, grow up. It was said that it was the treatment of the Palestinians by the Jews in Palestine and also the ones in New York and Washington that was the cause. It would have been better to mention more of us than Americans and Jews.
Inquiry is needed, moral inquiry, near to moral philosophy. This is not the only kind of slow and careful thinking about terrorism that is needed. Such books of relevant politics and economics are needed, and of the records of governments, and of history and international relations, and books by good journalists. But arguably general moral inquiry is the main kind of inquiry that is needed, anyway one main kind. Other kinds lead towards it, or presuppose it, or bluff about it, or take it to be easy, or try to do it on the wing.
It is true on this day, as these words are written, that the ending of this book is unknown to me. Something has happened that calls for new reflection on the decency and indecency of human lives, ours as well as theirs, and makes it harder. This doubt is not just a minority's. It cannot be concealed by our brave leaders in their seeming single-mindedness and uprightness and our kinds and degrees of compliance with them. It lingers in their sentences and in our newspapers and on our screens, in and between and under the lines. It is still the state of mind, as it seems to me, of most of us who were present for the killing at the Twin Towers and have followed what has come after.
Let us make our inquiry as real as we can. As I say, let us not rush to take any of us in the well-heeled world as having done wrong with respect to the low average lifetimes and the dying children, been responsible, been inhuman in our lives. There are great tragedies that at least seem to be without wrong actions, culpably responsible agents, bad or awful characters. Some are the natural disasters, say floods and fires. They are things of which all of us know, nonetheless, that it is bad or worse that they happen.
It is bad in this way that many people live less long than they could, that so many of their children die. These, to say the least, are bad lives. There is no point in trying to put aside feeling about that. We are not the one or two dessicated calculating machines that the feelingful Aneurin Bevan thought he noticed among his fellow members in England's old Labour Party back in about 1950. That was the one, by the way, that founded the National Health Service, because it could do more than count. Still, our object now is to come to have a grip on facts of several kinds, for the first time in the case of some of us, once again in the case of others. The facts must be all the relevant facts. Of necessity, then, they must include what is said by those who are against us.
But one more word first on the nature of this moral inquiry. It was indeed brought on by feelings about September 11 and the days afterward in Afghanistan. But it will be more general than other investigations, as philosophy and near-philosophy by their nature are. It will not get nearly so far into history, politics and economics as other investigations -- not so far into propositions taken by some of us as being of deniable kinds. It can have its essential basis, if certainly not its only basis, in well-established general facts, those in the table .
It will also be more general not only in considering general moralities and in spending some time on the general definition of terrorism and on other large things, but also in having to do not only with actual terrorism but also with some possible and some conceivable terrorism against us -- and of course having to do with us, things we can learn about ourselves. You can find out about yourself not only from what people do to you, but also from what somebody might have the idea of doing to you, with some kind of reason, whether or not they bring themselves to do it.
To think of some different terrorism, and different judgements about us that it may bring to mind, is not just to have the recommendation of a broader view. It is, for a start, to have something of more practical use, about the possible future, not just the past. You can't be sure about the future. As we know, it can be a lot different from the past. There is also another recommendation of generality. It will tell us more about precisely September 11 and what followed it, by putting this in a context or range of comparisons. Also, in the same way, the generality will tell us more about precisely our own moral situation with respect to September 11. You do not know a thing's nature without having a grip on similar, related and different things.
The general and larger aim of this moral inquiry of ours, with its particular recommendations, is another reason for not rushing.
Less than Half-Lives, and a Reason
To the figures so far given can be added some related ones that tell more of the same story. They have to do with years of life that are not healthy -- calculated years resulting from counting or weighing actual years differently on account of more or less serious malady or disability. Someone's healthy years of life so conceived, then, may be fewer than their actual years of life. The count of healthy years is the result of cancer, heart disease, mental illness, emaciation by hunger, AIDs, river blindness, malaria and so on. It may also be the result of 10 or 20 years of civil war, whatever its immediate and earlier causes.
The average healthy lifetime of our group, the one with the United States in it, is about 72 years. The average healthy lifetime of the other group, with Malawi in it, is about 30 years. At each stage of life, so many fewer in that group were healthy, so many more of them sick or worse. To go back to ordinary life-expectancies, as you heard, many in the African countries in question have half-lives at best. They are the individuals who bring the average down. In terms of healthy life -- decent life -- many have less than half-lives at best . Some of these lives that bring the average years down to 30 must be lives that we for our part would be inclined to take as not worth living.
You will have noticed that most of the countries of the world have been left out of the story here and earlier, the chosen groups. There are countries that come close enough in the rankings to those of the first group, say the countries Australia, Ireland and Portugal. So too are there countries fairly close to the African group, say Chad. What has been and will be said about the chosen two groups of countries applies with amendment to some others. It seems to me a good idea, in order to have things clearer, to focus more closely -- to start with, on us in the United States and so on and on the African group at the other end of the scale. But we and they are not all of the story. No one in Chad will think so.
Let us go on. It was said at the beginning that it is because of their societies that people in the two groups have the average lifetimes they do. I had in mind that the immediate or proximate cause was the state of each society, whatever causes further back there may be of that immediate or proximate cause. It has sometimes been half-supposed that short lives are all about climate or race or something as natural. It has sometimes been forgotten that money can buy ways of dealing with heat and even with the destroyer AIDs. That is true of famine or starvation too.
No one half-informed and in a state of calm will be surprised at a connection between general conditions of wealth and poverty, the things you can buy with what money you have, and the differences so far glanced at in average lengths of life and in childhood mortality. Still, to make any judgements, we need more than an impression of what gives rise to the lifetimes we have been contemplating -- the half-lives, those of the dying children and their parents, those of the sick.
The United States, however it shares out its money among its citizens, of which you will hear something in a moment, has had $29,240 per citizen each year. Sierra Leone, translating into the same currency, has had $140. The average for the whole group with the United States in it is about $24,000 a year. The average for the African group is about $220 a year. The cost of a special lunch for me and my publisher. The people to think of first, again, are those who bring the annual average down to $220.
There is an immense difference, then, in means to well-being, a difference that explains half-lives, dying children, sick lives.
There is something else that has to do with wealth or poverty. In a way, you may say, it can give us a better conscience. The United States comes at the head of a list again, in this case the mentioned wealthy countries listed in terms of the distribution of things within each of them. The worst-off tenth of Americans has had 1.8% of the country's total income or consumption. Not a lot. The richest tenth of the population has had 30.5%. The sharing-out in the other wealthy countries is similar. But to turn to the African group, the figures for the bottom and the top tenths in Sierra Leone are 0.5% and 43.6%. The inequalities in this group are a little greater than the inequalities in ours.
You may therefore note that Sierra Leone, to the extent that it makes sense to speak of it as an entity after prolonged civil war, is not doing well for the bottom tenth of its own people. If the World Bank has something to do with their state, so does its capital of Freetown or maybe its generals. So with the other African countries. There may be an occasion later for the thought that the conditions of social altruism, according to the figures, are a little better in Canada -- that the African countries are not so concerned with their own impoverished as they might be. This may also be the occasion for the thought that all of us under the sun, all humankind, Canada or Sierra Leone, have something in common.
If you are uneasily preparing yourself for moral argument, preparing to defend yourself against what may be coming, another contrast can be noticed by you. We have it so far that the four African countries have average lifetimes of about 40 years, and related average healthy lifetimes, and deaths of children at the rate of 200 per every 1000 children born, and are so poor as to have an average of merely about $220 per person a year as against $24,000 for us.
The situation of the four African countries is therefore worse than that of a group of Islamic countries save for Afghanistan -- Afghanistan before the war on the Taliban and Osama bin Laden and his followers by the United States and its allies and what came after. For these Islamic countries of Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the average lifetime is about 68 years. The deaths of children before five are about 67 per 1000. The income or consumption is an average of something over $4,000.
So if anyone should wish to throw a tolerant light on terrorism by citing lifetime-related facts, and in particular a tolerant light on Islamic terrorism, can they not rightly be given pause by the African facts and the absence of African terrorists? Can they not have it conveyed to them that it seems not to be actual deprivation or suffering that gives rise to killing, but something else less understandable, less easy to sympathize with? Religion in at least its outward form? Pride? Racial pride? The kind of pride that allows Lebanese businessmen to mistreat their black servant girls from Sierra Leone?
Another contrast, another possibility of reassurance for us, is akin to what was remarked a moment ago about the best-off tenths within the African populations and their very limited altruism with respect to their less fortunate fellows in the worst-off tenths. Things are in a way similar in the Islamic world. The circumstances of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are significantly different from those of the other Islamic countries, say Pakistan and Turkmenistan. See the figures. The two oil-rich states seem not to be doing a great deal to alleviate the harder conditions of life among other Moslems.
But let us return to brute facts about lifetimes, some different ones. They have a different tendency, the same as before, not reassuring.
In the United States or Britain or Spain or Japan, does the the financially best-off tenth of population live longer than any other tenth? The American and British figures for these tenths of population seem not to be collected, anyway according to the governmental statistics people. But there can be no doubt, whatever little qualifications there are of the fact, that the best-off tenth in our group of countries does live longer than most of the other tenths and of course the bottom one. It has more children making it through to the age of five too.
We will be noticing some nearby national statistics later about blacks and whites and social classes (p. 00) that confirm the fact about the best-off tenth, but we all know without the aid of statistics about the connection between really good medical attention, to say nothing of food, and living longer. We know about poverty and poor health too. There are many other relevant facts, including one noticed a little way back, that people in general live a lot longer in well-off countries than in poor ones.
So if the average life expectancy for one of our countries as a whole is about 78 years, what is the average life expectancy of the best-off tenth?
The same question arises about a lot of other people -- the bottom tenth of people in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Sierra Leone. If the average lifetimes for all taken together in those places are about 40, how long do the bottom tenth live?
Well, I have to leave you to find your own answers, not easy to come by, or to speculate with me. Is it not very probable that the top tenth in the United States and like places lives for about 80 years on average? Do the bottom tenth in Sierra Leone and the like places have average lifetimes of about 30 years? On the basis of the very great inequality of income or consumption between bottom and top tenths -- 0.5% and 43.6% -- and various other comparions and considerations, some mentioned above in connection with the United States or the like, it is a safe conjecture, to my mind a certainty.
It was noted at the start, about the two groups of societies taken as wholes, that the average lifetimes of 78 and 40 years meant that many people in the second group, those that bring its average down, have half-lives at best. In terms of healthy years, many had considerably less than half-lives at best. What is to be said about our comparison now, between the best-off tenth among us and the worst-off tenth among them? One thing is that many people in the latter tenth, those that pull its average down to 30, have quarter-lives at best , somewhere around 20 years.
It is easily said. But the disparity in living-time between these two well-defined sets of human beings is not something we see clearly. We are not faced with it. We do not see it as we saw the awful killing at the Twin Towers. By way of our screens, we were there, and we brought our own experience and knowledge with us. It was people like us on the planes. Seeing an emaciated child on television is not the same. Another world. We will come back to the subject, or near to it. But it is useful to keep in mind now, about those four million whose lives averaged 30 years, and those among them with the quarter-lives at best, that each of them had a name and hopes.
Is there a reason, from the point of view of moral inquiry, to restrain my own feelings in what follows? Well, it is not as if openness about them will deprive you of yours. Nor must the best policy always be what seems to be moderation, or even what really is moderation. Also, some openness will let you know the nature of your guide. More books should be explicit about their authors, as more politicians, notably more American politicians, should be explicit about their dual allegiances.
And, finally, actual attitudes, as distinct from what can seem to be said for or against them at first, are as proper a part of an inquiry at the beginning as at any other time. Somebody's firmness of feeling on a subject can give rise to more reflection on the part of somebody else. It will do no harm to your understanding, either, to reflect that some feelings you encounter in these pages may be had by very many more people than your own.
A final reflection about living-time may not be popular. It may strike some as contentious, distasteful or worse. Contentious, they will say, because what it comes to is somewhat unclear. Distasteful because it may be taken to imply an equivalence between dyings and killings. Something will be said of that too, when we are more concerned with interpretations of facts. For the moment, remember that popularity is not the aim of an inquiry worth the name, as it is not the aim of a court worth the name.
The worst-off tenth of population in the four African countries, to repeat, have average lifetimes of about 30 years. Thus they live for an average of something like 50 years less than the average of the best-off tenth in the wealthy countries. The exact facts do not matter for a certain question. If things had been different for a good while, would they have lived as long as the best-off tenth in those very different places? Or something like that?
Suppose we in the United States, the United Kingdom and so on had put in something equivalent to a war-effort on their behalf, or just really worked at it. The Prime Minister Mr. Blair in one or two of his speeches might have been taken almost to speak of such a thing for the future. People were moved. If we had really worked at it, would the worst-off tenth have gained 50 years of life on average?
Do you say instead, for whatever reason, perhaps a superiority to utopian speculation, that the best that could have been done by our human exertions to improve the conditions of the worst-off tenth would have resulted in their gaining only 30 years of living-time on average? Or do you say, out of more caution, or an assumption about our common human nature or whatever, that even if we had tried, the African tenths would have gained only 15 years on average? Or only 10? Or only five?
Do you say that it is irrelevant that between 1920 and 1940, American whites came to live longer lives by about 10 years? And in the next two decades by another six years? And between 1960 and 1980 by about four years, and between 1980 and 1998 by another three years?
It actually does not matter a lot to the argument whether you say the African tenth could have gained 50 years of life on average or only five. In the African tenth of population, you need to remember, there are over four million people. It does not matter a lot to the argument how few more years of life they would have been had on average if we had tried. The loss of living-time because we did not try is still immense. To shorten lives or leave lives short is not the same as to kill. It is not like killing. We know that before we begin to think more about it. It is still true that the living-time lost to the people under consideration is such as to make all deaths by terrorism, considered only in terms of living-time lost, insignificant. This is not a congenial idea, but it is an idea that some parties to a real inquiry will take to be relevant. They may take it to be more relevant than anything else. They will say they are not flies.
They will say it too when someone on their side gets more particular and argues, rightly, that there is solid evidence to show we could have lengthened the lives in question by just five years -- and draws the conclusion that there was a loss of living-time of 20 million years . Do you say that this is unreal? Crazy stuff? It would be good to know what you mean. Certainly the conclusion is hard to face. But how could it be mistaken to think of it?
They will also say they are not flies when they remind us that we are dealing with a sample, only a bottom tenth of population of four countries. They will say they are not flies when someone proposes going on to other simple calculations, including one having to do with the figure mentioned at the start, that 40 years is the average lifetime for the entire populations of the four African countries. They may say that the main thing about killing is the shortening of life, and that there is something akin to intentionality on our part, anyway akin to responsibility, in the loss of living-time in the African countries.
We will be looking at that large matter in due course. But now let us turn from this first part of a good life if you have one -- living long enough -- to the second part. This, as remarked earlier, has to do with what can be given the name of well-being and can be conceived in terms of the satisfactions of the five great desires other than the desire for a decent length of life. These are for a quality of life resting on and defined by certain material goods, and for freedom and power, respect and self-respect, relationships both private and public, and the satisfactions of a culture.
Great Goods Again
All this can be put differently, in terms of what have already been in view, and can again mildly be called bad lives . You can have a life that is bad because it is short -- a half-life or a quarter-life. This has been our concern so far. But you can have a life that is bad not because it is short but because of others facts -- your being deprived of some or all of the other great goods just mentioned. Reflection on the exact definition of a bad life will come later. (p. 58) Our present subject is to get some kind of knowledge of lives that are recognizably bad for reasons other than shortness.
We have a start on this subject in the short lives. It is not only that living longer is a necessary means to other parts of a good life. Living longer is also something different, a pretty good indicator of having the five other things or anyway some of them. A short life is a pretty good indicator of not having the five other things or all of them, first of all a quality of life connected with certain material goods. But we can come to see more than this grim generalization about some of the bad lives in question.
To glance again across the table, the differences in the figures between the second and third columns, about lifetimes and healthy lifetimes, give you the average years of bad health for a country. In terms of Zambia, the average years of bad health are about ten. If you are a Zambian man or woman who pulls the average down to ten -- perhaps someone with 20 years of severe debility -- the question barely arises of your doing tolerably in your life in terms of the mentioned great goods. You will do badly, of course, in terms of quality of life having to do with certain material goods, since they include medical means you lack. You will not have much energy to indulge in self-respect either, or in relationships with a chosen person or a wider community.
Still thinking of relationships, there is another kind of hurt that comes to mind in connection with the dying children in the fourth column -- the hurt, say, of a mother in Malawi that helps to bring the number of children dying under five up to an average of 213 for every 1000 live births. I suppose the human experience of seeing your four-year-old die is different if a lot of four-year-olds are dying? Or if a child of yours has died before, maybe two? Is the experience of seeing your four-year-old die very much different? There is one more question, though. Is it proper for us, in our thinking, to take the difference into account?
As we know, there is a strong connection between income or consumption and the great goods that are our subject now. You cannot live as a scavenger on a refuse dump outside a South American capital and have any of these great goods. Very likely the same is to be said of all of the bottom tenths in Brazil and Mexico, who have only 0.9% and 1.4% of the total income or consumption of the countries. Certainly the great goods are not had by the many individuals who bring the averages down to 0.9 and 1.4%. As against what the best-off tenths get of what is going, which is 47.6% and 42.8%.
Things are worse with respect to great goods for the worst-off tenths in the Islamic countries, perhaps including the oil states who keep their figures to themselves. They are still worse for the bottom tenths in the African countries. If, as in Zambia, the average share of GNP is $330 and the bottom tenth has 1.6% of income and consumption, then the bottom tenth has no goods worth mentioning in terms of well-being.
Despite cultural differences and lower expectations, there is a true proposition that they want the kinds of things we want. They have hardly anything. A detail may be useful. It is that the only easy place they have to defecate in may pollute the only water they have to drink. Do you say that surely they could walk further? That they are ignorant? Yes, they are ignorant. Did they need to be ignorant? Did God arrange that?
Other hopeful remarks can be made, some by economists. Will someone remark that the equivalent of a dollar goes further in Zambia than it does in Canada? True enough, but not so true as to take the sharp edges off the things we have been contemplating. Will someone say that some of the poor are happier than some of the rich? No doubt. I myself am among the rich, by a reasonable definition, and not quite so happy as a dancing lad I can imagine with nothing much, maybe a dancing Afghan lad with a kite.
But will the happy poor not be a small fraction of those mothers, say, whose children are very thin, like the ones in the Oxfam photos? Will the happy poor be numerous among those people who know the stigma that they are under, their being beneath the awareness of the people in the cars? Will there be many happy poor among those who especially would like to be able to read the printed words they look at every day? Or among those dying with AIDs?
Some last reflections on the table. It is true that several of the best-off tenths have extraordinary shares of what is available in their societies -- look at Brazil and Mexico, and also Sierra Leone. Still, there is a considerable likeness between all the listed countries in this respect -- all the groups in the table, us and all of them. Each of the best-off tenths has very roughly 30% of what there is, and each of the worst-off tenths has something like 2% or 3%.
It would be misleading to use these figures casually with the matter of physical well-being tied to certain material goods. This is so since the worst-off tenth in Australia, say, has 2% or 3% of a large total for the society, and the worst-off tenth in Mozambique has that share of a very small total. But think instead of the good of freedom and power, and the good of respect and self-respect. These are by their nature relative goods -- how much I have of freedom in our society depends on how much you have. So too, roughly, with respect and self-respect.
Could this turn out to be a source of comfort to us? Shall we be able to say that there is a good reason for supposing that the very poor in the four African countries and others are no more short on freedom and power within their societies, and also on respect and self-respect, than the very poor in the United States and the like? It is worth thinking about. So is something else.
As remarked, all of the best-off tenths in all the countries in the table -- those where the figures are available and published -- have very roughly about 30% of what is going. This is as true of the four African countries and some of the Islamic countries as it is of our own group of countries with the United States at its head. It is true of the three South American countries, and India and Australia, and also the ex-Communist states of Russia, Poland and China. Is this a law of nature, anyway a law of human nature? Is it something that it is or would be futile to protest about or fight against?
What would this law of human nature come to? Well, all of the best-off tenths, wherever they are, have a lot in common and also, you might think, a common interest. Such a common interest is different from the common interest of each best-off tenth with the rest of the people of its own country. Take the interest of a Mexican executive of a transnational corporation setting up a further low-wage assembly plant in Mexico across the border from America. Is his interest not an interest that conflicts with the interests of the Mexican women in the plant? And coincides with the interest of his American colleagues?
So is the law of nature just an ordinary fact? Is it the ordinary fact, about which something might be done, that people make profitable agreements that have a dark side? You do not need an ideology in order to come to a tentative answer.
It is clear, anyway, that the inequalities in the table are not all between whole populations or groups of whole populations. Not all disparities are between us, all of us, in the United States, the United Kingdom and so on, and all of them in the four African countries or the Islamic countries. Some inequalities are between (1) just some of us in each of the fortunate countries together with just some of them in the African and Islamic countries on the one hand, and, on the other hand, (2) others of us in the fortunate countries and others of them in the African and Islamic countries. Natural alliances, not limited to only the very top tenths, could enter into explanations of the fact of very many bad lives.
Like it or not, an inquiry into us with respect to terrorism will have to be an inquiry especially into some of us, won't it? Maybe including me, and you.
Not An Omission
All of what has been noticed so far, about lives that are bad because they are short, and lives that are bad because of deprivation, and of course lives that are bad for both reasons, raises a question about us and some of us especially and the leaders we have. The question comes up even if we take things slowly. It has to do with the rightness of our not changing things, leaving the world as it is. It has to do, that is, largely or anyway primarily, with the rightness of what are called our omissions -- and with our responsibility in them and the decency of our lives.
But it is not only a question of our omissions that is raised by our critics. Our critics say more, that we do not merely leave things wrong, but also put them wrong. They say positive actions of ours, our commissions, are as relevant to bad lives as our omissions. They make particular accusations about our positive actions and so on, past and present. There are positive actions of the United States with respect to South America, into which it has intruded many times. A good record has been kept by able judges. There are positive actions of Britain too, with respect to colonies and ex-colonies. There are also the actions of our transnational corporations, now as important in some ways as our governments and administrations.
As remarked earlier (p. 11) our inquiry will have its essential basis in certain well-established general facts, those in the table. They bring to mind our possible omissions before our positive actions. But our inquiry will indeed need to give some attention to another possible basis for judgement -- our positive actions. These, the main or only concern of other strong lines of inquiry, have to be kept in mind. If we do not have to take up this agenda of our critics, we cannot ignore it.
Let us attend to it a little. It would be at least difficult, and probably not enlightening, to try to proceed in a general way about our commissions. The charges against us are more particular than in the case of our omissions. Instead of trying to assemble a table of figures, it will be better to look at a particular case. There is the additional reason that it has been taken, wrongly or rightly, as the outstanding cause of the terrorism that seized our concentration on September 11 and subsequently gave rise to our counter-attack on Islamic terror. The case is that of Palestine, and thus of Israel and the United States.
Here it will not be possible to avoid moving closer to moral judgement on groups and individuals and on their acts. Still, our business now is mainly or in the first instance factual. As for the facts, maybe there is a little more room for mistake and self-deception here than in this inquiry up until now. I shall take care to limit myself to propositions that seem to me more or less indisputable. As for the choice of propositions, choosing what to leave out, this cannot be easy. Still, you can try to put in what each side takes to be of greatest relevance. Despite the chance of mistake and self-deception, impartiality and independence of mind are possible. It is usually a piece of strategy on one side or the other to deny this.
The region that includes what is now Palestine, despite the contribution of the Bible to misconceptions, was a land of Semites from the Arabian peninsula in the beginning -- Semites being speakers of a certain family of languages -- and except for a longer and a shorter interlude, brief in terms of its long history, it remained such a land until very recently. That is, it was settled around 4,000 BC. and remained Semitic rather than Hebrew in particular except for a few centuries around 700 BC and a shorter time around the birth of Christ. It was such despite Egyptian, Roman and other empires having sway over it. It was consecrated for Judaism and Christianity, so to speak, by the history of the Old Testament and the birth and death of Christ. It was consecrated for Islam by Muhammad's veneration of it as a result of his embracing of the other two religions in his own.
What is the relevance of this ancient past? Are we conceivably to decide great matters of living space and homelands now by ancient religion and its myths? Shall we start up all the world again by studying holy books? Do right and wrong now depend at all on what happened back then? Morality is about the living and those to come, isn't it? Is the remote past what the living really care about? They may say so, but is it really?
In 1900 there were 500,000 Arabs and 50,000 Jews in Palestine. Many of the latter had arrived as a result of the Zionist struggle for a homeland begun shortly before. This movement was the result of anti-Semitism, hostility to and prejudice against Jews, a unique history of contempt, envy, and persecution. The culture of the Arabs in 1900, judged from a Western point of view, was rudimentary. So too was their commercial activity. They could be and were spoken of as peasants. Their traditions of governing or social cooperation did not amount to a modern state. In 1917 Britain's foreign minister, Arthur Balfour, declared support for a national homeland for the Jews in Palestine, without prejudice to the rights of the overwhelmingly larger non-Jewish population. Arab opposition to further Jewish immigration, including violence and a general strike in 1936, was disregarded. What is the relevance of this closer past?
The destruction of European Jews by Hitler and the Germans during the Second World War did not issue, as in justice it ought to have, in a Jewish state carved out of Germany. It eventually issued, rather, in the United Nations resolving on a certain partition of Palestine. There were 749,000 Arabs and 9,250 Jews in what would become the Arab state if the partition went ahead. There were 497,000 Arabs and 498,000 Jews in what would be the Jewish state.*
What happened instead of the agreed partition was partly the result of actions by Jewish terrorists, partly the result of international politics and familiarity with it, partly of sympathy, and partly of finance mainly from American and other Jews. What happened was Israel's humanly understandable proclamation of itself as an independent country in 1948, and its prompt recognition as such by us.
This was followed by its use of force and of terrorism, including the massacre of an entire village, led by Menachem Begin, subsequently prime minister of Israel. In the ensuing 1948 war begun by Arab countries, in which they sought to reclaim land, Israel took more land, nearly half as much again as resolved by the United Nations. The Palestinians remained stateless.
In the 6-day war of 1967, which followed actions by Arab terrorists, the Jewish state seized the whole of Palestine. It did so with the use of American arms, and has since depended on America. By this time more than half of the Palestinians had been driven out of their homes or abandoned them in fear. They went to refugee camps, pens where they remained. The United Nations resolution calling Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories was ignored, by way of the argument that it needed secure borders, and with the necessary compliance of the United States and other powers.
Following Israel's 'Operation Peace for Galilea' in 1982, which was an invasion of Lebanon, appalling massacres of Arab civilians were instigated in refugee camps. For this terrorism another subsequent Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, was held personally responsible by an inquiry forced on the Israeli governments and conducted by it. In 1987 persistent terrorism by Arabs against Israelis was begun, part of the intifada or uprising. With interludes of negotiation and hope, there was small-scale conflict thereafter between the Israeli army and Palestinian civilians and armed organizations. The casualties were overwhelmingly on the Arab side. There was protest by a number of Israelis against their country.
Except for one period, the building of settlements on Arab land in the occupied territories continued, which policy was officially condemned by the United Nations but not prevented. Between 250,000 and 400,000 Soviet Jews were resettled on Arab land between 1989 and 1991. A third of the Palestinians in the occupied territories were living in refugee camps. To the Jewish diaspora had been added a Palestinian diaspora. Of about seven million Palestinians, about half were now outside of Palestine.
Official aid from the United States to Israel from 1949 had reached $40 billion in 1967, this being 21.5% of all American foreign aid. By 1991, also according to American figures, the amount reached £53 billion. United Nations resolutions against Israel have come to nothing because of the American veto in the Security Council. The Palestinian resistance, by comparison, has had to rely not on tanks and planes but mainly on stones, snipers and suicide bombers.
In the spring of 2002, as a result of provocation by Prime Minister Sharon and then renewed suicide killings by Palestinians, and with the terrorism of September 11 as a further cause or pretext, Israel again made use of its army and airforce. Tanks encircled villages, the leader of the Palestinians was humiliated, rockets and armoured bulldozers wrecked homes, Red Cross ambulances trying to get to wounded and dying Palestinians were stopped, bodies of victims were disposed of by those who killed them, uncounted by their own side. It horrified the world, save for many Americans left uninformed by their media.
This was said to be Israel's war on terrorism. Was it terrorism itself? Would calling it terrorism be loose talk? A kind of exaggeration? Emotional? Like the Palestinian diplomat's remembering the Holocaust on the television news and saying his people were now the Jews of the Jews? That question will have to wait a while.
History is a proof that peoples demand the freedom that is their running of their own lives in a place to which their history and culture attaches them. It is a freedom for which oppressed people have always fought. It is a freedom such that a threat against it in 1939 united almost all of us against Germany. It has been denied to the Palestinians. Their bitterness is owed not only to bare fact of the loss of their homeland, so to speak, but to their having had it taken from them.
Palestinians have been denied by their enemy exactly the right of a people that has been secured and defended by that enemy for itself. No fear or half-fear or pretended fear on the part of the Israelis, who are a nuclear power, let alone talk of terrorism against democracy, can touch the enormity of this moral inconsistency. The essential American part in it is not lessened by its having been played, by most non-Jewish Americans, in a kind of absent-mindedness, sometimes wilful.
The terrible inconsistency is plain to all who are unblinded, plain to very many Jews in and out of Israel. No hair-splitting will help. It is as plain to those of us who also see that it was a moral necessity after the second world war that the Jews come to have a homeland, in Palestine if not elsewhere. Add in about the inconsistency, if you want, that it is not the first one in the existence of a people or a person. Say there are inconsistencies in my existence, and in yours, and on the Arab side. No doubt. But some consistencies matter more. To mention another one, being consistent about saving lives is different from being consistent about saving Jewish lives.
It is not only the freedom of a people that has been denied to the Palestinians. Another thing, which can indeed be distinguished, is respect and self-respect. Having been among the principal victims of racism in history, Jews now seem to have learned from their abusers. Zionism as it is has rightly been condemned as racist by the United Nations, whatever further analysis of the fact is attempted. As for the material goods that serve to provide a quality of life, they are in short supply in a refugee camp. So too is the culture of a people. With respect to the good of human relationships, no more needs to be remarked on than large numbers of wrecked families. These things are insults, too, indeed injuries, to the rest of the Arab world.
The bottom fact of it all, if not the only fact, is that the lives of several million people have been made what we are calling bad by wrongful actions of people who suffered uniquely before them and of their supporters elsewhere, mainly in America. It is inconceivable that the experience of the Palestinians does not open questions about the ensuing terrible actions by them and on their behalf, and about what we are to think and do. As much as what we were thinking about before, lengths of lifetimes in different places, Palestine opens questions about right and wrong in general, about our responsibility for what has gone wrong, about what really can be said in condemnation of the terrorism of September 11, and about our own moral relationship to that day and afterwards and what is to be done now.