Monday, January 10, 2011

Decline in global morality

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I am expecting global politics to descend into a terrible state of affairs in coming years, and far from adopting the right policies, we can expect the decline in morality to justify a swag of oppressive policies. I will refer to just two issues in the media - one in Britain and the other in the USA. It would be fair to say that it is not that morality has declined in the last year, but rather than people's intolerances for government will seemingly blow out of proportion. The reality is that a lot of people will be invalidated for their views, and this will make them just more alienated and violent.
The first issue is the senseless condemnation of Labour MP Jack Straw for commenting on some people in the Pakistani community.
The former Home Secretary was accused of trying to "stereotype a whole community" after he suggested that some Pakistani men in Britain saw white girls as "easy meat".
The reality is that this is how in fact a significant number of young Pakistanis treat western women. The flaw in Straw's condemnation was that he restricted his attack to Pakistani men. It would have been more (politically) correct to say youth members of collectivist countries like Pakistan who prejudicial views of the West. This is not a fact confined to Britain. In Australia, several groups of young Muslims have 'gang banged' Western women; usually for some ceremonious reason. I am not a fan of politicians, but it seems he is being criticised for making a legitimate, even if not strictly correct statement about 'ethnic values'. The problem is that he is attacking a conservative, self-righteous, insecure, proud people who are very sensitive about Western criticism, and who seem never to acknowledge any of their flaws. One of the problems with these issues is the tendency for people to define themselves or attach themselves to some collective identify, and then feeled compelled to defend the values they have assumed.

The second incident was the actions of a lone gunman who shot 18 people in Tucson, Arizona, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. This was clearly a politically-motivated killing. The House Speaker John Boehner stated:
"An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society".
This is a rather romantic notion 'public service' that does not always hold true. The reality is that public service can facilitate a harmonious society, or it can undermine civility if not done well. Clearly the gunman is unsatisfied with his 'elected officials'. There are of course those who argue 'Tough luck', but others believe they ought to have some control over their lives, and that their interests should not be dictated by 'public servants' who have no relationship to them, and no particular or specific interest or knowledge of them. Clearly some of these people are morally ambivalent, others feel powerless, and still others are at a loss as to how to deal with this dilemma. What we can know however is that 'lone' people get frustrated and feel compelled to act. Acts of 'shocking violence' in a democracy is the only action that a person can take to 'get attention'. Unfortunately, its not useful attention. Reasons don't matter, arguments don't matter. This gunman could have lodged a submission to the government on its gross violations of human rights and he would be ignored. His interests don't matter. Is he not entitled in this case to assume:
1. "If I don't matter, neither do you"
2. "If I have no rights, neither do you"
The rage that compels a gunman to shoot 18 people is clearly an over-reaction, and it achieves no end. But such is the senselessness of concrete action, that we should hope for better from our political discourse. But its not better. Its the same. Politicians 'react' as this gunman acted. They are in fact role models for gunmen. They do not offer long range solutions. They don't because they are short range, non-conceptual fools.
"Some politicians expressed hope that the killing spree would serve as a wake-up call at a time when the political climate has become so emotionally charged".
A wake up call for whom? For politicians? It will not make a difference. There reaction was simply to beef up their security.
"The suspect's exact motivation was not clear, but a former classmate described Laugher as a pot-smoking loner who had rambling beliefs about the world".
It is clear to me. The 22yo youth is the product of our Western education system. He did not have a conceptual framework which integrated his values, so he was probably self-loathing, but there ought to be no question that he 'loathed' government. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was targeted because she was his closest 'reasonable target'. He effectively lashed out at her because she was the closest identifiable target. He shot 19 people, killing 6 other people (including US District Judge John Roll, Congresswoman Giffords' aide and a 9yo girl). They were just collateral damage to him. He was angry and this was the only way he could conceive to express himself by which he would express that anger. We are accustomed to people wanting to 'act out' in order to elicit some reaction. When we deny them validation of how they feel, they just raise the stakes.
There will be more killings like this. Sadly it will not lead to a better quality of political discourse. It will make no difference at all. People will say its a 'senseless crime', but was it really. There is logic to the most heinous crimes.
Andrew Sheldon

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