Sunday, December 14, 2008

Catalog Of Sins

The scandal now growing around Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has started up a favored pastime of political mudslingers. Adding Blagojevich's alleged crimes and his supposedly flawed character to the Democrat's Catalog of Sins.

Of course cataloging the sins of those not like you, and/or that you don't like, isn't the exclusive province of politics. Everyone who's debated whether Communism or the Crusades has caused more misery, or indulged in heated speculation over whether or not the current state of Black America should be laid at the feet of Slavery or a botched follow-up to the Civil Rights Movement has been sucked into the same trap - myself included.

Having finally managed to see the habit well enough to begin to separate myself from it, I've been reflecting on what causes it. The immediate answer may be the best one, although I do not doubt that there are others. Those who make it a point to catalog the sins of others, from Christopher Hitchens to Dave Sim to Bill O'Reilly, tend to work from a single central premise: "The world would be a better place, but for..." It points to a world that is, in some ways, a living organism, that could heal itself once we remove the "bad stuff" that infects it, as opposed to, say a home, where no one regards the simple act of removing an infestation of termites as the end point of a home improvement project. It also speaks to a simplistic view of morality and/or ethics that says that there are Good people and Bad people, and you know the Bad people because they have done the most Bad things. In other words, once again, we have the search for the easy way out.

I suppose that I have no business being surprised by this. After all, the path of least resistance (and therefore, the least work) is pretty much the way people always do things. Before you jump on me for that statement, recall that there are a number of ways in which one may define the words "resistance" and "work." And not everyone is going to take the short-term view of their situation either. So perhaps it's more accurate to say that people always seek what they understand to be the most efficient means to whatever end they are after - and so this issue is less one of laziness, than of worldview. And what we often has is a worldview in which the problems of the world have clearly defined origins, that are also easily removed - if only everyone else had the sense and the will to do it. It is, perhaps, the ultimate external locus of control.

No comments: