Monday, March 18, 2013

There are no "victims"; there is no "they".


We’re all used to the importance of “personal responsibility” (especially if we watch “Southpark”).  We all know that misdeeds or poor performance can have personal consequences.   But we can also live with the consequences of the problems of others.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that harder to take than I would have thought.
  
There are many ways we can face disruption or “threats” of an existential nature, with coercive effects upon us individually and personally.  Some of these come from the natural world:  earthquakes, pandemics, storms.  Some of these we exacerbate with the sum effects of our own individual actions (like carbon emissions, or even sexual conduct).  Some can come from war, which has become a much more flexible concept, in this age of asymmetric actors and (especially now, with North Korea, suddenly) rogue states.   And some can come from crime. 
  
I was a “victim” of a street crime recently.  I won’t give the details now (the suddenness and brief duration of the incident, almost just a second, were surprising, perhaps shocking, and there was no time to contemplate resistance), and the consequences were minor, in the grand scheme of things.  For example, I was not injured and almost all of the loss is covered.   Nevertheless, I do have to live with the “logistical” consequences, at least short term,  that can affect my plans and productivity, and personal “competitiveness”.  
  
I am certainly struck by the possibility that, had the physical consequences been serious, they would become part of my reality, perhaps for the rest of my life.  They would determine in large part how other people perceive me.  They could make me dependent on the will of others, whatever my (past) libertarian leanings.  They respect or tolerate no personal pride.   Call it my own karma if you like.  I would be paying part of the “cost” of other people’s difficulties, whether I chose to or not. When I perceive other individual people and my degree of interest in any one of them, I react to the "reality" that I "look and see"; I don't consider unseen hardships or losses.  That's disturbing.  How much do we all depend on the undisclosed sacrifices of others? 
  
I think that there are gray zones or loose boundaries among crime, terrorism, and war.   With much crime, the perpetrator has decided that the “rules” mean nothing to him, because he has not been able to make it in the world of “other people’s laws”.  He may believe that others did not face the problems he faced and have a little of his hardship coming to them.   That sort of mentality was common with the (Maoist) “far Left” when I came of age as an adult.   Curiously, and for very much the same psychological reasons, it’s common in the gun and survivalist (or doomsday-prepping) culture of some of the extreme Right.   And the thinking is common among the “mentally ill” and terrorists, who want to see others “brought low” just as they were. They experience temporary power, to control the reality of other people, just like bullies.  
   I know this is disturbing.  A personal sense of ruin, from without, can be "reality".  I cannot necessarily be "recruited" to make something "all right" that isn't, with me anyway.  
   
In this sense, I sometimes say “There are no victims”, just as I write (in my novel), “There is no ‘they’”.  There is only “I and we”.  There is only “reality and Grace.”
  
I love the article by Steven Pearlstein (in The Washington Post), March 15, 2013, “Is capitalism moral?”  Yes, it is. 
  

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