Pure signal.

Genocide is good for you

Genocide is useful

You just need to pick one and in it you can find deep waters of spiritual satisfaction. Like red and white wine, people have their preferences. Conservatives, on the whole, prefer the genocide of the Gulag Archipelago, and liberals on the whole prefer the genocide of the Native Americans. And I am sure that many people to whom those actions were personally meaningful have been taken in by people who merely find them tasty. Who find them to be convenient justification of their own spiritual superiority.

Do you spend more time talking about genocide than apologizing for being an asshole? Because unless you are a war crimes investigator…

I may never have lifted my hand to do a thing for anyone (except that time in November when I gave a $5 bill to a homeless man, a story I tell whenever people are talking about angels sitting on their shoulders. I may talk about how God moved me to generosity to give that bill to that man two years ago, or is it now three? No matter.) but I voted against Bush — and I registered my outrage that stupid white men committed genocide against poor innocent Native Americans.

I show my outrage; I point my finger. They were bad, I am good.

Or I recite the litany of abuse of the former Soviet Union. I was a welder at an Aerospace firm, I was a cold warrior. They did bad things (for simple reasons, usually) and I am a good person, here it is, just by virtue of not being them.

And very few people push it further — very few people look into the fact that gigantic machines of propaganda took those real and horrible (and hugely complex and contextual historical periods) and made them into simple morality plays to manipulate votes in the UN, to garner donations for political campaigns. I do not think that we are suckers because we are stupid.

I think we are taken in because those stories of easy evil bolster us in our failure to accomplish simple goods. In expressing indignation, we think that we are doing good. But we are just drugging ourselves with emotion. It would be far better to simply shut up and volunteer to pick up litter on the side of the Highway one day a week.

But that doesn’t feel good — we wouldn’t feel important. Besides, on some of those days it rains. And while we are quite sure we would stand up against the armed agents of genocide if they came for our neighbors, none of us really like having to go out in the rain, especially on a weekend.

So what are the stories you tell yourself about Good and Evil — and who do you hate on behalf of courage you have never shown? You need to start being honest with yourself or you will never accomplish anything that will mean anything to anyone.

You need to look at how you privilege information that is coming to you, at how you surround yourself with sources and individuals who agree with you. How you fight straw men and bolster yourself with circular reasoning. And you need to find small things that you can investigate and understand and accomplish. Because before you ever can take on the question of what is good and what is evil, you have to achieve clarity with regard to what is false and what is true.


October 13, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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