Thursday, April 30, 2009

Don't bother, they're here

What I was getting at here, put more succinctly, is that for every problem, there is always someone to blame as the solution. Now that Americans and CIA agents and the very politicians that D.C. journalists covered for the last 8 years (at least; Rummy and Cheney go back to the Nixon Administration) are accused of committing or directing torture, suddenly torture may not be so evil after all. In fact, we needed to do it because, well...there was this ticking time bomb....and, and, they were terrorists!

Or now that Barack Obama is President, all our problems are due to those politicians (it was the Court, actually) who took prayer out of our schools and the "media" who don't respect our "tea parties." Or it's the fact that some public figure is NOK, and yet he keeps being treated like he is!

And if we could just "fix" them, that, those! then everything would be O.K. again.


As DAS put it, in comments below (slightly edited for relevance, nothing more):
[Y]ou can't count on people doing the right thing, alas. I know I'm too much aligned with the Deuteronomist for the tastes around this blog on this sort of issue, but the system is supposed to be constructed in such a way that you don't have to count on people doing the right thing. What it counts on (to -- perhaps mis -- quote Madison) is ambition being made to counteract ambition.

The system was broken not because the Gang of Four failed to do the right thing and stop the torture, but because there was no motivation for them to stop the torture and every motivation not to rock the boat.

Democratic Republics work because ambition can be made to counteract ambition. But when that system fails -- either because ambition is made to be sycophantic to other ambition or because of a perhaps deliberate plot to make ambition counteracting ambition seem silly and distracting (c.f. Clintongate) -- the democratic republican system itself fails.
I agree with DAS, especially about the lessons of the Deuteronomists. Those lessons, like the lessons of the prophets, revolve around one central truth: this problem is your doing, not some "other's." It's not the fault of God, or Babylon, or anyone outside the group, or some lesser group within the group. It's your fault. Your responsibility. And your burden. You want it fixed? Fix yourself. No other fix is possible or credible.

Or, to put it even more succinctly:

You check the speck in another's eye.
You cannot see the tree in your own.
John Dominic Crossan, The Essential Jesus.

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