Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hang Together

[F]or Gandhi, the struggle to bring about a better world involved not only stringent self-denial and rigorous adherence to the philosophy of nonviolence; it also involved a steady awareness that one person, alone, can’t change anything, an awareness that unjust authority can be overturned only by great numbers of people working together with discipline and persistence.
Brian Morton "Falser Words Were Never Spoken" The New York Times. Monday, 29 August, 2011
We've gotten the "one person, alone, can’t change anything" part down to a science. The rest of it, it seems, we outsource. Unjust authority or simple injustice, we seek to find someone else to make these things expensive, because we won't do it ourselves. Sometimes this works for us, but it just as often works against us, as it is a corollary of the Law of Unintended Consequences that "hard cases make bad law," and so often things don't go as planned.

Changing this means a lot of things that we don't like, such as talking to people we disagree with, and searching for those areas where we can make common cause. Sometimes it means having to be less doctrinaire about our understandings of right and wrong, even if we see such things as not being open to discussion. Sometimes it means understanding that not believing in whatever way we've decided is best for everyone isn't the same as actively believing in whatever way we've decided is worst for everyone.

We've given up on group discipline and persistence in favor of claiming that others have a deontological obligation to act in a way that we want them to, and so we strive to have our ethics codified into laws that it then falls to other people to enforce, while we congratulate ourselves on a job well done, and go about our business, secure in the understanding that we've made the world a better place through the simple mechanism of another means to punish people.

No comments: