Some of the “Facebook history threads” or whatever they are called are hilarious, some are patently offensive… the one I read today, while having doses of both, I found to be more instructive or insightful (even if – perhaps – accidentally so).
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know one of my pet peeves is when someone willingly relinquishes their position of righteousness and joins the madding crowd. This usually take the form of some form of revenge or vigilante justice. I should be up front about this… I’m a prime example of a person who – despite awareness, loathing and best efforts – has done, and most likely will continue to do, this very thing. It drives me no less crazy (in fact considerably more-so) when I am the one doing it.
Getting back to the little comedic history (this one was about WWII) there was this clip:
Note the (very short) journey of common sense in this clip. From a rather… dare I say… common sense response to one charged with anger and retribution. For now I’m going to ignore all of the pro/con arguments about the use of atomic power at the end of WWII, that is not the point of this piece. Rather I want to talk about how our emotions effect our thinking, judgement, and finally actions.
Literally years ago (it will be 5 years in May… unbelievable that I have been at this that long) I wrote about the somewhat famous Stanford prison experiment, the effects of the war in Iraq on our soldiers and other manifestations of stress et. al. Like the clip above, these are all cases of seemingly normal, healthy, and good people going bad.
At the very least, without context, their actions would be taken as bad, and in some cases even with full disclosure there is seemingly no excuse for what transpired. In the case of the clip above, in an attempt at humor, the creator has captured the essence of how so many bad decisions are made and bad actions taken. Given the right stimulus the human brain can rationalize any action. Note, for example, that the motivation for the sudden change of heart was actions taken by the Germans… while Japan received the atomic treatment.
Atomic (and nuclear) weapons will never do the bulk of their damage against the perpetrators of atrocities, but instead the majority of the victims will be the (at least relatively) innocent people having the misfortune of being born within the borders of the “evil doers” country. At best, tens of thousands of civilians (again, arguably completely innocent) will die for every truly “bad” person killed in such an attack. Morally, practically, and certainly with an eye toward justice, it makes absolutely no sense as a solution… and yet…
I had an online conversation yesterday and today regarding a rape/suicide and the perpetrators who walked away pretty much scotfree. The conversation was ripe anger (perhaps more accurately: rage) frustration, and helplessness. What was disturbing to me though were the calls for retribution rather than justice. There was talk of meat grinders, forced suicide etc. etc. etc. I understand the anger and hopelessness, and feel it myself, but I do not think sinking to an equally destructive position does the world any good. It might (or might not) make an individual feel better, but what has it done to reshape the rape/sexploitation/comodification of women culture we live in? what had it done to prevent the next Stuebenville, or Halifax, or wherever?
Slap on the wrist sentences are ridiculous and no more equal to justice than meat grinders. However, trivial punishments are something that we can reasonably attempt to address, without becoming part of a spiral of anger and destruction. Moreover, when it comes to changing the culture we live in, punishing the perpetrators of these crimes to the extreem is a bit like putting a mattress on the spot a jumper landed when they threw themselves to their death. It won’t bring them back, it won’t save the next person (even in the highly unlikely situation that they land in the same spot), and it won’t change the circumstances that led that person and anyone having already jumped or considering taking their own lives from following that path.
What we need is a fundamental societal shift.
When determining the guilt or innocence of someone accused of a crime their actions, and only their actions, need to be considered. It doesn’t matter what their victim was wearing, singing or doing with their cherry stem… what matters is what the accused did with their hands (or other implements). This is actionable, you can write your congress person, start a petition, write a blog, talk to your sons and daughters… or… or… or… the bottom line is that you can take action without compromising yourself and with the bigger goal of improving our national (global) quality of character.
When the US patent office receives a copyright application for “breastaurant” they need to reject it on the spot and initiate the biggest sexual workplace harassment investigation in history. Cause, seriously, I can’t say “you look great in those jeans” to a co-worker (not that I want to… just making a point) but that joker can call his bikini clad employees (all of them, nationwide!!!) “breastaurant workers” and that’s totally cool???? This is actionable, you can write your congress person, start a petition, write a blog, talk to your sons and daughters… or… or… or… the bottom line is that you can take action without compromising yourself and with the bigger goal of improving our national (global) quality of character.
And, when a car company tries to sell used cars by saying “you know you’re not the first, but do you really care” we all need to say enough! If the workplace is the only place a woman can feel protected from being reduced to a commodity (not that she really can, but at least there are some laws that *should* protect her there) we are doing something drastically wrong. This is actionable, you can write your congress person, start a petition, write a blog, talk to your sons and daughters… or… or… or… the bottom line is that you can take action without compromising yourself and with the bigger goal of improving our national (global) quality of character.
I could go on, but you get the point (and I’ve drifted a bit from mine).
The things that we see, hear, experience in the world effect us… at times they infuriate us. What we do about that is up to us. It is – often – not easy to find a productive reasoned response to what we are exposed to (as I said at the beginning, I often fail at this); however, in the long run, doing so is exactly what will help us manifest the change we want to see in the world. At the end of the day, I’m pretty sure that restraint and constructive reactions are and will be what separate us from being the worst that we can be… and provide the potential for attaining some much more than we can imagine ourselves accomplishing.
Or, put better, by someone far smarter than I: