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Where Do Those People Get Those Ideas?
Most of the people in the world believe in things that I find patently ridiculous.
I have accepted that my beliefs are just as inconceivable to them.
Being all members of the same species, with the same general needs and desires, there should still be enough areas of agreement that we can all get along together.
That in many cases we can't is a fundamental fault in the psychological makeup of the creature we are, more than in me or in them, individually.
From my viewpoint, “Live and let live” is a basic rule of human intercourse. I do not want anyone messing with who I am or prefer to be, and I therefore do my best to avoid trespassing on others’ social, psychological or physical territory.
For millions of my species-mates, this innocuous philosophy -- stated boldly and publicly in a manner they could not ignore -- would justify my forcible demise.
For them, their beliefs are the only ones which matter. All else is error; of such magnitude that it does not deserve to exist in the same world as their cherished precepts.
Those who would actually feel it their duty to do away with me; or not their duty to stop other members of their congregation from doing so; are doubtless outnumbered many times over by equally true believers who would be outraged by such behavior. But because they understand the emotional basis of that behavior they might not be sufficiently outraged to actually come to my defense.
In this corner of Western society we have recourse to a Rule of Law which does its best to ensure that the society unemotionally but assiduously protects me from the rest of its members and even -- in certain circumstances -- from myself. Human life is fundamentally prized.
If I made it known that I intended to commit suicide, for just about any reason, I would speedily be apprehended and restrained from doing so. In most cases this would be a good idea, most reasons for committing suicide being the product of temporary or reversible emotional states. In other cases -- such as the projected avoidance of a lingering and nasty death process -- such prevention is a form of tyranny.
But the Law, being the Law, cannot officially allow for that possibility.
Life is good. Death is bad.
Unless, of course, society decides that I am such a rotten, irremediable scum that it is justified in killing me, itself.
Thus the Rule of Law gives rise to such absurdities as putting a suicide watch on a prisoner who is about to be executed.
It is not incumbent upon the Rule of Law to be always logical; only evenhanded.
Therefore it is supposed to protect me from behavior injurious even and solely to myself. As long, therefore, as I express even the most abhorrent opinions and engage in extremely unpopular behavior, but remain within the Rule of Law, itself, the Law -- if it is able --will protect me. Theoretically, anyway.
It might undertake to isolate me from those elements of society which I might most grievously offend -- on the basis of protecting their rights not to have to attend to me -- and it might even put me in protective custody or remand me to a mental institution. But it is duty-bound to try to keep me from harm.
This is necessary because too many people become so emotional in the defense of their principles that they cannot prevent themselves from violating others’ rights to criticize those principles; or offer alternative agendas.
But, I? Is my philosophical position superior to that of some fundamentalist who might consider it his duty to kill me because I consider his beliefs nonsense and am rash enough to say so within reach of his vengeance?
Of course not!
In spite of all my ethical soul-searching and sincere conviction that anybody’s beliefs are as valid -- to him -- as mine are to me [perhaps more so because part of my canon is to question even my own beliefs] there are entire bodies of culture and systems of philosophy which I would prefer to disappear from the face of the earth.
Because many of these are traditionally ingrained in many millions of people -- and I have no means or desire to “retrain” these multitudes from their courses of obvious error -- that means I would not mourn the disappearance of these people, as well.
While I cannot conceive of doing anything personally to contribute to such a holocaust, I can’t imagine putting myself out seriously to prevent it. (While the Taliban was in meltdown, I was uncommonly pleased, even as I realized they were being replaced by a ragtag multitude of lifelong bandits; and that the whole exercise was tainted by hubris of the most pernicious sort.)
So many people in the world simply do not matter to me, one way or the other. I would certainly feel no great loss to my personal island if all the ideological Nazis in the world - whom I actively abhor - were suddenly sucked into the maw of some Universal Retribution; even the many individuals among them who weren’t personally inclined to violence.
The distinction I claim from these un-favorite people is that I entertain the possibility that I am not irrefutably right; in some weird twist of the Universe they may even be necessary to the longevity of the gene pool.
In any case I have no business participating in their demise; unless they happen at the moment to be threatening me and other people whom I personally value more.
So much for superior moral positions!