Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rami: Response To Mike's 6/9 Post

I agree with you, Mike, we must choose. And we always choose the good and the right. Regardless of which side of an argument we are on, of which policy we back, or which side of a war we choose to fight, we always assume we are on the side of the good. The good excuses more evil that does evil itself. Slavery, oppression, genocide, torture are rarely done in the name of evil, but most often done in the name of good. The argument continues on CNN and Fox right up to this morning. Those who support torture do not do so because it is evil, but because, in their minds, it serves the greater good.

Given the ambiguity of goodness, let me respond to your guidelines, holding your second for last.

(1) Does the prophet’s teaching, or proposed action square with persons being created in the image of God? The challenge here is to hold on to the idea that our enemies are in fact created in the image of God. The first stage of evil is always to dehumanize those we wish to abuse. Once that is done, once we are convinced that the other is in fact not human, then we are willing to do unto others any horror we can imagine.

(3) Will the agenda, teaching or action contribute to the enhancement of human community or instead farther fracture it? Again the issue is our definition of “human community.” Once we define “us” as human and “them” as gooks, huns, nips, kikes, niggers, baby-killers, and the like we can excuse incredible evil perpetrated against them. And then there is the argument current during the days of American enslavement of Africans that it was in the best interest of the enslaved to be slaves. Better a Christian slave in America than a free pagan in Africa. There is no end to the power of humans to rationalize evil.

(4) Does the agenda, teaching, or action require some genuine sacrifice on my part, or does it mostly serve to protect my interests (economic, career, comfort zone, etc.). This works for you and thoughtful people like you, but most of us put “keeping what’s mine” at the top of our agenda. American foreign policy, regardless of the party in power, is about keeping what is ours and expanding what is ours often at the expense of others. This may bother you, but not the majority.

Now let me come back to your second point, Would I want to be on the receiving end of a given prophet's agenda? This is, of course, the Golden Rule, and at the risk of sounding Pollyannaish, I think this is the only guideline that might work. Would I like to be slaughtered? Would I like to tortured? Would I like to be abused or enslaved? At least on the level of personal ethics this works. And if people would hold to such an ethic our communal ethics might come to reflect this rule as well.

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