Theme Thursday Follow-up #3   9 comments

Top Three Things Upon Which I’m Willing To “Put My Foot Down”

The obvious frivolous answer first, “the surface of the Earth”.

There are really only two things that get my dander up enough that I put my foot down.  The first is uncritical thinking (this makes it difficult for me to surf the Internet).  I willingly accept that people have various different assumptions about high level concepts like “worth” and “right” and “wrong” and “honor”.  I’m perfectly willing to let someone rest an argument on a basic assumption with which I disagree (the right of the individual vs. the right of the collective, for example).  What I’m not willing to accept is people who *claim* that they believe two things that cannot be held in reconciliation.  “I believe all life is sacred” and “I believe in the death penalty” is an obvious example of this sort of absurdity.  If you believe in the second, you by necessity cannot believe in the first… unless you have a very tortured definition of the word “sacred”.  In this case, you’re likely just engaging in hiding a serious moral quandary from yourself, under a semantic blanket.  Don’t start arguing with me unless you’re willing to pull that blanket back and talk about what’s underneath it.

The second is unreasonable fear.  Unreasoning fear I can understand.  Some people are afraid of dogs, or the number 13, or being outside, or being inside, or any one of a number of other things that are not based upon reasonable evaluation of danger.  It’s part of human nature.  I might think it’s silly, but I’m not going to begrudge anyone their own personal horrors.  This crosses the border into unreasonable fear when you start trying to change or effect government policy because of your fear.  When you think that undocumented workers are going to steal your job because you work in a field dominated by undocumented immigrants, that’s a reasonable fear.  When you think that “They are going to try to return California to Mexico”, that’s an unreasoning fear.  When you say you need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on building a fence that won’t actually solve your problem, that’s an unreasonable fear.  The most common symptom of these sorts of fear are expressed in phrases that being with the following:

“If it prevents just one… [snip]… then it’s worth it!”

No, it’s usually not worth it, in any sort of evaluation other than the one you’re playing out inside the magic space in your head.  If I spend $1,000,000 to save a child’s life… is that worth it?  Hm, you say, maybe it is.  If it’s my child, by God I’m going to try and come up with that $1,000,000… that’s for certain.  On the other hand, if in order to spend that $1,000,000 to save that child’s life I need to first take that $1,000,000 away from a program that is going to save 10 childrens’ lives, what I’m doing is probably reprehensible.  People are really bad at doing cost/benefit analysis when it comes to public policy decisions, and this is strengthened by our political representatives.  They usually don’t tell you what the cost is going to be.  Even when they give you a dollar figure, you probably don’t really understand what the cost is going to be.  If it’s my million dollars, and I’m spending it to save Jack’s life rather than send it to save 1,000 children in Africa, that’s my decision and my moral quandary.  If it’s government funds, on the other hand, it’s really bad juju to mask the actual issue by trumpeting my program under the flagship rhetoric of, “If it prevents one… … then it’s worth it!”

It’s almost a rock-solid guarantee that once those words come out of your representative’s mouth, he or she is selling you a pile of B.S.  It’s the political equivalent of Godwin’s Law.

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Posted April 8, 2009 by padraic2112 in Theme Thursday

9 responses to “Theme Thursday Follow-up #3

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  1. But if it prevents Hitler from taking over just one internet conversation, it’s worth it.

  2. I think my head just exploded.

  3. ““I believe all life is sacred” and “I believe in the death penalty” is an obvious example of this sort of absurdity.”

    Really. I don’t have the source blog in front of me. But I have puzzled over why you could deny someone a clearly outlined biblical belief. Do you bring a different definition to the first part? Remember thou shalt not kill. But an eye for an eye. So all life may begin sacred. And I should clearly not say, “Ya know what would be fun. Killing a couple people.” Lest I be given up for immediate judgement. Maybe those wuss Jesuits skipped that part, but out on the plains…. And just cause it strikes me… “Hangin’s too good for ‘im….”

  4. > But I have puzzled over why you could deny someone a clearly outlined biblical belief

    There are no clearly outlined biblical beliefs. There are beliefs which are based upon scripture, but for just about every direct imperative in the Bible, there’s an opposite imperative somewhere.

    > So all life may begin sacred

    Sure. But that is actually different from “all life *is* sacred”, which is the usual phrasing. If you’re going to start throwing around very large class statements, make sure you define the boundary limits correctly.

  5. I appreciate the response as always… two part response further examined below….

    First part… you surely know where it is coming from. Those passages are clear to this ghost writer we are analyzing. And they have been the basis of laws through history.

    Second part, you are expecting from others a literal and logical interpretation where it is not the convention. If you grant them what is a common interpretation (all be it below your standard as the reader), its not completely fallacious. The life they are proposing taking, is still be sacred. It doesn’t necessarily follow that “sacred” means not subject to rules and restrictions. Well to my reading anyway. Again as the reader you may bring another meaning. The definition they are using is that it is to be treated with highest respect and therefore not taken on a whim. Which supports both Thou shalt not kill and excepting the following very grave circumstances.

  6. oops… is still be… good edit there… may still be?

  7. > The life they are proposing taking, is still be sacred.
    > It doesn’t necessarily follow that “sacred” means not
    > subject to rules and restrictions.

    From a theological and ethical standpoint, I agree with you. My problem is that people who use, “Life is Sacred” use it, in and of itself, as an argument. They use it as an irreducible when discussing certain issues (notably abortion), but they will qualify and apply restrictions and rules when discussing other issues (like the death penalty). It either is irreducible, or it is not irreducible… and if it *is* irreducible, you’re SOL; you can’t kill somebody even to defend yourself. If it’s *not* irreducible, then you need to discuss what the circumstances are that allow you to treat life as sacred and yet still end it willingly by your actions.

    And most people quite frankly won’t do that.

    I don’t mind people who have well developed ethical, moral, or theological positions on issues like the end of life… but those people as a class virtually never bust out the “Life is Sacred” line. They’ll talk about the nature of life, but only in the larger context. Most people have heads filled full of stuffy incomplete thoughts, and rather than examine their positions on issues and figure out some sort of consistent method of evaluating complex issues, they stick to platitudes. It makes me grind my teeth.

  8. Not to pick on the anti-abortion crowd, this sort of shortcut thinking crops up everywhere. “Meat is murder”, “War is not the answer”… there are millions of examples.

  9. Ok. Now I get it, some anyway. You don’t (or admit you shouldn’t) dismiss them for making the statements in and of themselves. There are other signs you must be seeing.

    I love to put the E in P.E.T.A!

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