Saturday, April 7, 2012

Good Riddance

From as early as I can remember, people would tell me with how much I love to talk and argue, I should be a lawyer. I don't think they meant it as a compliment, but I took it as one--at least back then. So I became a lawyer.

When I was a practicing lawyer, my "toolbox" consisted mostly of reason. In a factual sense, a trial lawyer, or litigator, tries to find out both the client's and the opponent's story, and then look for flaws in them--that is, ways that they contradict physical or documentary evidence, other peoples' stories, or the teller's own version at a different time. In a legal sense, a litigator tries to draw analogies of his/her case to other cases in the past where the outcome was favorable, and distinguish or differentiate cases where the outcome was unfavorable. It was gratifying, up to a point, and then it wasn't anymore--and fortunately for me, I was in a position to stop being a lawyer and do something else. I think that episode in my life might be somewhat instructive.

As most people know, there are times when your heart conflicts with what your reasoning tells you is the logical outcome. For example, in a "reason" world, members of a community that are weak, "defective," or ill are a hindrance, maybe even a fatal flaw, since they slow down progress, consume resources without replenishing them, and take away resources from stronger members of the "pack."

Of course, in any classroom discussion of this kind of a topic, you'd come up with one or two people--nearly always male (and they're usually the swaggering jerk model of male)--who would argue that bashing the weak or infirm in the head with a rock is a good idea if it would benefit the others in the group (they call this "Utilitarianism" in logic and philosophy), but there's always sort of a sick silence in the room afterwards.

That's because, as much as the purveyors of our male-dominated, competition-driven, survival-of-the-fittest, "reason rules" culture would like it to be so, humans aren't creatures of reason, but creatures of heart. And that's the way we're supposed to be.

Imagine, for example, if on the first day of school each year, the teacher was tasked with identifying the smallest kid in his class ("the runt"), any developmentally disabled kids, the "stupid" ones who don't pass a pre-test predictive of school success, and any "sickly sorts" and killing them. Or how about if, once our prime years of production were over, 50 or so for most, we had to turn ourselves in for a death sentence. Or if, instead of having a medical system, we simply said, "if you get sick, it's either your own fault or a result of poor genes," and just let people die from their ailments. After all, that's good for the gene pool. And it removes the least productive elements from society--those who may have something to offer, but their required inputs are higher, on average, than those required for the healthy, the "normal," and the young.

This kind of eugenic tinkering has been done, of course, and in its most recognizable forms, it has been roundly condemned and its perpetrators have become known as the worst type of criminal. The Nazis' eugenics efforts, and the medical experimentation on the mentally ill or developmentally disabled are some examples. When Utilitarianism is at its finest, it tends to result in atrocities. It also has a snowball effect. The more we divorce emotion and embrace reason, the more "reasoned" society becomes--and the less it allows for the things that are only important to the heart but not the head. Things that we need for our spirit, but don't "produce" very well: things like grandmas, and babies, and art, and music, and love.

Unfortunately, there's many more subtle forms of Utilitarianism which we still refuse to recognize--like trying to get "the poor," "the undesirable," or "the disabled" not to reproduce through free "family planning" for the poor and racial or ethnic minorities, or like killing off or exploiting the "other," in the indigenous genocides around the world that made way for "progress," or like "population control" efforts that result in people aborting babies (usually female) until they get the brand (usually male) they favor, or like the inhumane treatment of animals for greater "yield" or for our convenience. We're definitely not perfect in our compassion.

And as long as we allow Utilitarian reason to overcome what our hearts tell us is right, in any case or for any reason, we're in as much danger from its snowball as the people in its current path--it will get bigger as it rolls, and eventually it will roll our way. It's way past time that we begin to insist on a societal conscience that recognizes and preserves the ideal of compassion and the dignity and value of life, even at the expense of the so-called greater good--that is if you happen to agree that clubbing defective kindergartners, or offing grandma isn't a very nice idea.

It's time for the death of reason. And my eulogy of it will be short--Good Riddance.


  1. How is it that so many people seem to over look these things? I was simply wondering, if it's so obvious, which it seems to be, how have our brains been wired into this sick thinking? Even if most people find genocide wrong, why do they overlook the little, yet very, VERY important, things? I have always heard humans spoken of as the most amazing creatures on the planet; so evolved and wonderful, yada yada yada. But, if we're so smart like they say, HOW are we so gulible? What did anyone say or do to start making us think like this? What could take away some of our compasion? If you could please answer, I would be very thankfull.

  2. I happen to be one of the people who think that humans are amazing creatures. Most amazing on the planet? Maybe, but I'm fairly partial to dogs. :-)

    But I think that we've been systematically and very deliberately indoctrinated to indifference and inhumanity through a campaign of fear and division that has gone on for thousands of years. Social systems, religions, cultures, nations, etc., are all set up, by that few, to make an "us" and a "them." We are taught to fear "them," to believe that "they" are less worthy, less deserving, less "civilized," and perhaps evil. We are constantly told that "they" are coming to get what "we" have, and so we must "protect" ourselves. What better way would there ever be for those in power to remain in power, than to convince their subjects that they are always in mortal danger from "them?" Only by tapping the power of the powerful will we be "safe." And so the powerful have great incentive to make sure that we remain scared and divided, so that they have armies of fearful minions to help them stay powerful against any challenge by the powerful of the other "side." And it's always the "reason" part of us, not the "feeling" part that buys the logic that "we" are better, so the ends (of protecting "us") justify any means. Think back on every atrocity your mind can access. Can you think of a single one that didn't involve setting up an "other" to fear? Huns, barbarians, savages, heathens, "Negroes," Jews, the "weak," mental defectives, Commies, Muslims, Illegal immigrants,'s about division and fear. And it will stop only when we stop buying the lies.