Drowning in absurdity again…

I think everyone would view this story with revulsion…

Security forces in Israel have been sent to the town of Shfaram, where an Israeli soldier was lynched after he shot dead four Israeli Arabs on a bus…

…Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called the shooting a reprehensible act by a “bloodthirsty terrorist”.

The army said the 19-year-old soldier had deserted over the Gaza pullout.

Named as Eden Natan Zaada, he was beaten to death by a crowd of people who stormed the bus after his weapon ran out of bullets.

The gunman, from the Jewish settlement of Tapuah in the West Bank, was wearing his army uniform and a skullcap when he opened fire in the northern Israeli Arab town.

Not everyone would, I hope, subscribe to the absurdity of Gene’s comments at Harry’s Place.

There should be no attempt to “understand” his motivation. Nothing– absolutely nothing– justified this horrific crime.

At the risk of being pedantic, the definition of ‘understand’ is…

v. un·der·stood, (-std) un·der·stand·ing, un·der·stands
v. tr.

1. To perceive and comprehend the nature and significance of; grasp.
2. To know thoroughly by close contact or long experience with: That teacher understands children.
1. To grasp or comprehend the meaning intended or expressed by (another): They have trouble with English, but I can understand them.
2. To comprehend the language, sounds, form, or symbols of.
4. To know and be tolerant or sympathetic toward: I can understand your point of view even though I disagree with it.
5. To learn indirectly, as by hearsay: I understand his departure was unexpected.
6. To infer: Am I to understand you are staying the night?
7. To accept (something) as an agreed fact: It is understood that the fee will be 50 dollars.
8. To supply or add (words or a meaning, for example) mentally.

v. intr.

1. To have understanding, knowledge, or comprehension.
2. To have sympathy or tolerance.
2. To learn something indirectly or secondhand; gather.

While the definition of justify is…

v. jus·ti·fied, jus·ti·fy·ing, jus·ti·fies
v. tr.

1. To demonstrate or prove to be just, right, or valid: justified each budgetary expense as necessary; anger that is justified by the circumstances.
2. To declare free of blame; absolve.
3. To free (a human) of the guilt and penalty attached to grievous sin. Used of God.
4. Law.
1. To demonstrate sufficient legal reason for (an action taken).
2. To prove to be qualified as a bondsman.
5. Printing. To adjust the spacing within (lines in a document, for example), so that the lines end evenly at a straight margin.

Which means that seven out of eight uses of the term understand do not involve offering any trace of justification of such an act – and the one use that does encompass such a concept admits to disagreement with the act itself.

Or to put it another way…

I understand the motives of the perpetrator of this attack and consider them to be reprehensible. I also understand the reaction of the Palestinians to this attack but I disagree with their response – i.e. stoning the perpetrator to death on the spot – on principle, justice always being preferable to revenge.

Now, does that make sense or would you prefer Gene’s point of view?

On a lighter note, Tim Worstall has some first class advice for would-be suicide bombers.

5 thoughts on “Drowning in absurdity again…

  1. This is just pedantry. I think that by putting the word in quote marks, Gene is denoting a colloquial usage of the word.

    In this case, it is the usage as determined by the psychologists of the popular media, also associated with the debased meaning of “empathise”.

  2. DK,

    I don’t think Unity is just being pedantic here. This is a valid point. If Gene is using the quotation markes to imply that he really means “justify” when he says “understand” he should be more careful with his language.
    It is this colloquial misunderstanding of the word which is stifling debate at the moment. We need to understand the actions of such people but by debating their motives does not automatically mean that we justify them.

  3. To me, the quote marks make it perfectly clear what he means. I would have agreed with Unity if the word had been unmarked. The parody intended by Gene was, to me, obvious.

    There are far worse crimes against the understanding of language out there, including in the definitions of certain political philosophies.


  4. DK:

    There is method in this which will, hopefully, become clear in my next post here.

    The semantic point being made is not simply the difference between ‘understand’ and ‘justify’ but the whole phrase “no attempt to ‘understand'” – we should attempt to understand and even empathise with the attacker because only by doing so can we genuinely reject their position.

    It’s not enough, IMO, simply to believe something is wrong – if we’re to make sense of things that we have to understand why something is wrong as well.

    Gene’s stated position is ‘here, take this a piece of received wisdom’, my position is ‘work it out for yourself, it’ll mean something that way’

  5. DK

    reading Gene’s full post, i concede that you are probably correct in you interpretation.

    It seems to me that Gene is indeed parodying those who claim to “understand” such actions as a means of sanctioning them.

    Apologies for accepting the quote out of context but i still stand by my comments above in that understanding should not be confused with justifying.

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