Archive | February, 2011

The Hurt Locker: Ethical Decisions and the Lesser of Two Evils

28 Feb

Decisions

Every single day we have to make thousands of decisions. Some are as simple as what time to get out of bed, what to eat for breakfast, or what clothes we are going to wear. However not all decisions are easy, in our personal lives and work lives we sometimes have to make difficult or complicated decisions. This sets the basis for the factors that affect decisions and how we handle them.

What makes a difficult decision? Difficulty is often gauged by the severity of the outcome. We would deme the decision to pick fruit loops or cheerios less difficult to make than say, which school to put our kids in. So what makes your breakfast choice less difficult? Well when you analyze the outcomes of choosing one cereal over the other, the result will be that you’ll be less hungry than when you started, and the worst case scenario being that you would of rather had fruit loops that day. Compare that to choosing which school your kids go to, the outcome becomes much more complicated. For example, it is possible that the school which your children attend will have no effect on their future. But there is also the possibility that the choice of school will greatly alter their lives. With no means to tell for sure, one can only investigate each outcome as best as possible, and finally make that difficult decision.

This leads us to another couple of factors affecting our decision making process. The more difficult a decision is the more time to make that decision is required. However, as many of us know, this is not always an option. Furthermore stressful situations can be caused either internally by the decision itself, but also externally by the conditions in which we make decisions. Stress can induce an altered state of mind in which every person reacts differently. Often individuals who can make effective decisions under stressful conditions and in short amounts of time are highly regarded.

The Hurt Locker

Perhaps one of the best examples of stressful decision making is in a combat situation. While many business decisions can be stressful, it’s hard to match the outcomes of life and death many soldiers face every day in active duty. The recent film ‘The Hurt Locker’ released in 2008 portrays the particularly stressful life of Sergeant First Class William James, Sergeant JT Sanborn, and Specialist Owen Eldridge, a military bomb squad in Iraq. For the 3 man team portrayed in the film, there are multiple levels of danger associated with their duty. The decision to join the army, being deployed for active duty in Iraq, and being on the bomb squad, and having to constantly deal with IED’s in a combat situation. For it is one thing to diffuse a bomb in a secure location, but more complicated to diffuse a bomb while the streets around you are far from safe. The combination of all the factors surrounding an army bomb squad means that determining the best decision can be substantially more complicated than choosing what to eat for breakfast.

Suicide Bomber: What is more evil?

The film is loaded with difficult scenes, and questionable wartime tactics, from injured insurgents, hostage situations, to bomb laden Iraqi bodies.

One particular scene in the movie deals with a particularly difficult ethical decision. Suicide bombers usually strike without any warning, but in this scene, the troops are faced with a different kind of bomber. The man is strapped with explosives, but he has changed his mind, regretting his decision and begging for help. The scene is reflective of the opening scene of the movie in which one member lost his life due to a bad decision. Troops clear the area, as James, Sanborn, and Eldridge are called to the scene. The amount of explosives on the man forces the troops to isolate him, keeping a safe zone around him. As the man cries for help, James is strapped with the bomb suit and goes to analyze the situation. Sanborn and James attempt to free the man of his explosive vest, but it is tightly secured with a series of locks and metal strapping, and a timer ticking down to detonation. It quickly becomes clear that they will not be able to free the man in time, as Sanborn tries to drag James away. James struggles to the last seconds to try and free the man, but ultimately has to make the difficult decision to leave him. The scene closes with a massive explosion.

Although difficult, it seems a necessary decision to leave the man for the safety of everyone else involved. And for most people that exact decision seems like the only logical choice. Ultimately that decision is one of the biggest ethical questions individuals, soldiers, organizations, or governments have to face, and is more commonly known as the lesser of two evils. It’s that very concept that many people would struggle with, and ultimately, even people who don’t believe in the concept of a lesser of two evils will react in the same manner.

Lesser of Two Evils in Life

Not every variation of the Lesser of Two Evils concept is life and death. The concept only implies that in some strained situations, the benefit of many must occur at the expense of a few. In that view, democracy itself can be thought of in this way, for democracy is the benefit of the majority, at the expense of the minority. Every decision has a compromise, there is always sacrifice. More often than not, these types of decisions are surrounded with time constraints and stress. It is easy to judge a decision from a calm environment with ample time to explore the outcomes, but not easy to make that decision when the time calls for it. This is something we must always remember. As stressful conditions intensify, and time is short, we may not have the opportunity to investigate all possible outcomes, but a diligent attempt is required.

Finding Balance

It is imperative that we strive towards that balance in life. While not all our decisions will be the best ones, we should work towards educating ourselves and exploring the options as best as possible. By doing this we can ensure that we are better equipped to handle situations as they arise. Just as we must not let the restrictions of voluntary blindness to issues around the world affect us, so too can this concept be reflected in a global scale. By limiting exposure and education, prime conditions for unethical decision making can develop. Often so, these bad decisions can even be done without harmful intention, but as the world changes, the ignorance excuse is losing credibility. The regimes of the Soviet Union, East Germany, and more recently North Korea all have worked to blind their citizens of the freedom of knowledge. Without knowledge it is difficult for individuals to make informed decisions, the lines between right and wrong can quickly become blurred.

The importance of establishing a sound knowledge base is the foundation for good ethical values. As DesJardins outlines “acts and choices that aim to promote human well-being are acts and choices based on ethical values” (DesJardins, 2009). While many of us may not face the same conditions that an army bomb squad will, we will however face difficult situations nonetheless. Nobody wants to be faced with making difficult decisions, but it is inevitable in life. As Sergeant Sanborn says riding back in the Humvee after that particular final scene, “you realize every time you suit up, every time we go out, its life or death, you roll the dice, and you deal with it” (Bigelow, 2008). We do not have the luxury of choosing which situations we are faced with, but we do have to deal with them. With a strong understanding of our surroundings and values we can enable ourselves to make the difficult decisions to the best of our ability.

-J.Magnan

References

Bigelow, K. (Director). Mackie, A. (Actor). (2008). The Hurt Locker [Motion picture]. Voltage Pictures.

DesJardens, J. (2009). An introduction to business ethics (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

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Ong Bak 2: The Beginning

23 Feb

If the name Tony Jaa rings a bell, thats probably because you were introduced to the movie Ong Bak back sometime around 2003. Ong Bak was a  film which introduced alot of people to a few new things: Thai Films, Hilarious English Dubbing, Muay Thai, and the insane fighting skills of Tony Jaa.

While although Tony Jaa has yet to breakthrough into the realm of credit I think he deserves, we are lucky enough to see him in a whole trilogy of Ong Bak films. Having delayed watching Ong Bak 2 and 3, I finally watched the entire Ong Bak 2 film.

A couple things to remember when watching Ong Bak 2, is that it really is nothing like Ong Bak, thats right, not a tuk-tuk in sight in this film. In fact, the film takes place in the 15th century, in ancient Siam, making for a unique setting, in a world very few people even know about. The second thing is that, just as in the original, the storyline is so faint, it ultimately fails to pull you in. Which is sad, because with the right amount of plotwork, these films could easily have become epic historical action films comparable to the likes of Gladiator, Braveheart, Apocalypto, or Croutching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

However, do not let that prevent you from watching this film. For what the movie lacks in story, it makes up for with a whole lot of flying knee kicks to heads and sternums. And the movie posesses the best use of an elephant in a fight scene, hands down.  Combat scenes are elaborate and well choreographed, and the absence of music in some parts really brings out basis of this film; the fight. Listening to leg kicks and throat jabs is all you really need sometimes. More points for some simply stunning scenery, elaborate costumes, and decent musical score.

I give this film a solid thumbs up.

Bok Choy Salad

20 Feb

So if you’re in a situation like me, and you have some left over bok choy from a recent dish you made, you might be scratching your head on what to do with the left over greens. Fortunately you still have options, and one of those options is to prepare a delicious salad with it. Unlike lettuce, bok choy has a very distinct taste, which gives it a little bit of kick. So the key to using it in a salad is to mix it in with a variety of other greens so that kick isn’t a little too strong.

I tossed mine together using the following:

Bok Choy

Tomatoes (Diced)

Red Onion (Diced)

Green Onion (Chopped)

Cucumber (Sliced and Halved)

Grated Gouda Cheese

Sweet Onion Dressing

After I tossed the vegetables together I grated the gouda over the top, and finished things off with the sweet onion dressing. It made for a delicious and different salad than the norm, and is a great way to use that left over bok choy. Enjoy.

Parking

15 Feb

 

When you’re parking your car in a tight space, 2 things help. A small car, and a little ingenuity.

If you lack both of those, and if you have no driving skills, parking proves to be more difficult.

Happy Valentines Day

14 Feb

Even though I don’t have a valentine today, I don’t mind wishing a good Vday to everyone else. So whether its a a true Valentines Day, or a ‘Valiumtine Day’ please enjoy my favorite Katie Melua song on this day.

Infected Area: Monsters

8 Feb

On the discussion board today is a film I saw last night. The film I saw was Monsters. It’s safe to say that I had no previous knowledge or expectations about this film before I saw it. I had pretty much only heard of the name, and was told it was a low-budget film from a friend.

One thing I love about low-budget films is that the film makers don’t  possess the funds necessary to create large action sequences or incredible CG. This forces the filmmakers to focus on the story, the characters, their relationships, and ultimately be creative to draw in their audiences.

Monsters is no exception, the film follows Andrew; a photo journalist as he is forced to put aside his assignment and help the daughter of his boss Samantha get back to the United States from Central America. The catch is that 6 years ago, a space probe returning to earth with samples thought to prove the existence of alien life crashed into Central America. And ever since then, the ‘monsters’ have been multiplying, pushing the limits of the Mexican and American governments capability to contain them.

In order to return to America, the couple has to travel through ‘the infected zone’, an area off-limits to humans and is meant to contain the monsters. As they do so, they develop an interesting relationship, as Andrews cynical yet realistic point of view combines with Samantha’s soft-spoken gentle nature. The characters are easily likable, and you can’t help but hope they succeed in their journey to the border.

Scifi monster movie buffs might be disappointed with the very little actual monster contact. The best relation I can think of is that of Cloverfield, in which you saw very little of the monsters themselves. But the similarities stop at that, as Monsters is far superior in quality to that of Cloverfield.

So for a movie that was created with 2 people, filmed entirely on locations, and utilized local people as characters in the movie, this was a spectacular film. Check it out.

Uncontacted Tribes: First Video

6 Feb

You may remember the images that appeared a couple years ago of one of the last uncontacted tribes. Deep in the Amazon of Brazil, photos were taken from an airplane of the tribe recently discovered. Their brightly painted bodies amidst the jungle appeared in news sources around the world. Now the first video has been released of that very same tribe. On February 4, 2011, the amazing video was released.

More can be read about them here: http://www.uncontactedtribes.org

Uncontacted or lost tribes are not entirely new. There are different variations of such tribes in remote areas around the globe. Currently, Brazil leads the world with as many as 67 uncontacted tribes according to a 2007 report.

Remote islands in the Andaman Sea host at least 2 tribes known as the Sentinelese. They have apparently violently avoided contact attempts by the Indian government, and have since been left alone. Recent helicopter surveys suggest their population at 250, and they are believed to have lived there for 60000 years.

The last uncontacted aboriginal people in Australia, Mexico, and the United States are believed to have made contact in the 20th century, as late as 1984 in Australia. While such tribes are believed to exist in New Guinea, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Bolivia, Suriname, Paraguay, Guyana, French Guiana, and Venezuela as well.

It is clear that watching this video, and seeing these images stirs a unique fascination among us. Maybe its the idea that a people can live without ever seeing or witnessing the civilized world for so long. In the heavily developed world, its hard to imagine that this is even possible. Or maybe it’s because we think we have explored everything, we know everything, there is no new discoveries left in the world. Stories like this tempt our minds to question what we know.