Saturday, June 20, 2015

"Writing a manifesto" gets viewed as a dangerous sign

It seems that the concept of “Manifesto” gets more negative with each tragic incident.  The latest news is that twitter users found a 2500-word “Manifesto” by Dylann Root (presumably, by evidence; CNN and Mother Jones are careful on that point), who killed at least nine persons at the Emmanuel African Episcopal Methodist Church (AME) in Charleston SC on Wednesday night. Of course, even in high school, we had learned to associate the word "Manifesto" with Karl Marx, and then with expropriation. 

The textfile on “LastRhodesian” is no longer available.  But there is a Google cache, which may not be available for long, here.
CNN has a narrative story here; Mother Jones here
There are plenty of accounts of what it says.  This includes the idea that Root was provoked by the Trayvon Martin matter.

There have been plenty of “manifestos”.  Ted Kaczynski made a spectacle of getting newspapers to run his just before the Internet era began,
It seems, off hand, that writing a “manifesto” is a reaction from someone who is somehow offended by what society, or those in his own peer group, demands of him for presumed common good, to provide rationalization for how he would like to see the world work and what he can do to make it happen.  The manifesto-creation represents an inability to “fit in” to society in a way that doesn’t lead to some other kind of shame.
My own first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book was sometimes called “The Manifesto” by my own friends back in 1997.
I'm not particularly interested in what's in the “manifesto” described in the news today as to claims of a specific ideology, but I am concerned about the individual morality involved. This new "manifesto" expresses a belief that people should always be processed as “objects” who are members of adversarial groups.  This is very much the case with religious terrorism (as in the Middle East), and with Nazi and other totalitarian ideologies of the past (Communism is a little more complicated).  But if that is so, then no one is “innocent”, and other members of the group should pay for the “crimes” of their peers merely because they belong to the group. 
I have always acted and written as an individualist.  It’s true that I grew up (in the 1950s) with certain notions about the external trappings of manhood where I would, in my own mind, attribute a moral value to various individuals based on what I interpreted as “virtue” in what I saw. This affected (and still affects) my level of interest in some sort of personal relationship with the person.  But it had nothing to do with the idea that the person belongs to a particular group.  It never could have justified aggression against someone else just because of some kind of arbitrary “disapproval” (of any behavior or trait). The philosophy was “do no (direct) harm”, but that may not be good enough for sustainability.

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