Saturday, March 30, 2013

complicity, consequences, intentions

I get by in a wealthy country, middle class sort of way because I'm American, though being white, male, and hetero has surely helped in less obvious ways. The reason there's a market for English in Japan is that English-speaking humans have been very proficient at using guns and missiles and social constructs and economic tomfoolery to take things in the past several centuries. The country I was born in, once upon a time, helped push industrialization on an agrarian Japanese society, and when that went in an inconvenient direction, bombed the shit out of the humans here and gave them a one-party nominal democracy like its own. Now the Japanese want English so they can get ahead in the Frankensteinian corporate ladder-climbing wage slave hell so kindly gift-wrapped for them by my nominal fellow countrypeople or because it's fashionable thanks to the propaganda factories in Hollywood or, whatever the details of a particular case, it's pretty clearly going to be an effect of empire. And I'm here to help. 

Getting back to yesterday's post, I want to say that while dominant group status means that you necessarily receive often unnoticed benefits at the expense of the dominated group, this doesn't mean that it's good to be a member of the dominant group, even as, materially, dominant group membership is clearly less bad. Less bad is not good and materiality, in the commonly understood sense, is not everything. 

You do not kill people you don't know if you're not a miserable wreck inside. You do not fantasize about other people doing it either. You do not invent two separate, opposed bad/good language systems entirely revolving around us (freedom fighters) and them (terrorists) to describe the same physical realities if you're a reasonably healthy human. You do these things because it resolves an immediate tension (while leaving the underlying long-term tension intact) by displacing it on a victim.  

This of course is not to excuse abusers. Speaking as a knowingly complicit person (not as an abuse victim), I'm concerned only with consequences and how best to avoid bad ones, specifically unnecessary harm to humans. That Stalin likely suffered through a profoundly depressing internal life from early childhood should have had no impact on the imperative to stop him dead. Even if it were true (it's not) that he couldn't have done anything differently or that he was dealt a particularly bad hand, that imperative would be unaffected.   

On the other side of the consequences coin is intentions, a necessary part of the story bound up with such complexities as our desire to consider ourselves good and the accidental and unpredictable effects of actions. When considering the harmfulness of actions, only the effects of intentions should matter. There are no good or bad intentions in themselves. As part of an I/us/here system, all intentions are ultimately good in some sense, taken in isolation. There are good or bad consequences, though. There are no good or bad people, there are only people who cause a lot of pain and people who cause a little (feel free to put a positive, pleasure-based spin on same). No one should feel bad (i.e., experience ego pain) about harm they caused accidentally. No one should feel bad about harm caused non-accidentally in the past if its roots have already been removed. If the problem is still in the abuser, I hope they feel bad, not because they're bad intentionally but because they're bad consequentially and because ego pain is what we, linguistically, have access to when we're talking to another brain system, a thing capable of changes that can lead to better consequences. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Darn. You would have been a sexy female