Monday, April 18, 2011

Meta-Honesty

A Times article advances the notion that such things as Barry Bonds' steroid use and sharp, cheating tax accounting arise in part out of a sense of fairness/unfairness, and not just simple greed and sociopathy.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/weekinreview/17chump.html?ref=weekinreview

It's an old observation that you're stuck playing at the gaming table of the world, that, while you're responsible for playing your hand as best you can, you don't deal, you don't cut the deck, you don't make the rules and you can't leave the game. That the rules might just have been written without your interests in mind, whether by Job's God or a legislator who, having been bought by Commodore Vanderbilt, stays bought, is as old as humanity. The question is whether those rules are themselves so unjust, so unfair, as to be illegitimate and therefore exert no moral authority over human action and can be ignored.

This was a common stance on the New Left of the SDS etc. in the 1960s, which evolved towards a stance advocating revolutionary change--'Steal This Book' comes to mind, as does the abuse of police authority and the epithet 'pig' in response covering all police. This is now common amongst the militia types, and those holding that much current government deviates fatally from any possible Constitutional justification. Meanwhile, such as Thoreau ('Civil Disobedience') and ML King ('Letter from the Birmingham Jail') accepted civil punishment, even while rejecting its underlying moral base.

The proper response, seems to me, is to accept the current government as legitimate, while seeking to change it, and seeking to correct the unreasonable, sometimes unconscionable, legal and economic barriers to necessary change from within current structures rather than in revolt against and destruction of them. The former risks legitimizing that which should not be accepted--the Citizens United decision comes to mind. The latter risks replacing the current unsatisfactories with even less satisfactory change, sometimes with horrific consequences. There are ample historical examples on both sides. I consider the risks of revolutionary change, even allowing for their possibility, far greater than those attendant on awaiting another swing of the pendulum, giving it a gentle push on occasion. The most benign interpretation of Obama's presidency after the Busherdammerung is along these lines. I haven't always agreed with Obama across the board, and doubtless won't. But I too have seen an attempt to delegitimize a deeply flawed system yield nothing other than reaction and rejection.

So there. Hrmphf. Get off my lawn, and turn that noise you call music down...

9 comments:

Ruth said...

While I agree that working within the system is preferable to attacking everything there, the questionable results of elections such as the latest SC voting in WI - that was overturned by an official who has previously turned in more votes than the ballots given out - raise a more serious question to me. We can't win in rigged elections. We can't win in partisan courts. What is left?

steve simels said...

We can't win in rigged elections. We can't win in partisan courts. What is left?

I keep saying it -- progressives have to take over the Democratic Party as ruthlessly and completely as the conservatives took over the Repugs in the wake of the Goldwater fiasco.

That took twenty years, of course, and I don't know if we have the luxury of that kind of time...

Ruth said...

When a progressive ran against a total scumbag winger here, the election results were obviously fixed. So how to take over??

BlakNo1 said...

(plays Mastodon cd REALLY LOUD)

shrimplate said...

I think one of our biggest problems is that corporations are considred to be "persons." Of course if we held a Consitutional Convention to change a word or two to deny corporations their advantagious protections this affords, all hell would break loose.

So we can't do that.

filkertom said...

I still can't fathom how the idea of helping poor, sick and old people against obviously greedy corporations is not only controversial but considered a losing argument.

dfh in dalmatia said...

According to the best science, most of the US and Canada will be covered by a region of permanent, level 4 drought by around 2040, as well as the entire Mediterranean.

Can't really agree that patience is a virtue anymore.

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

Steve: It took 50 years--this STARTED with the assassination of JFK. And it occupied the talents of probably scores of thousands of people. And it cost BILLIONS of dollars, and was richly and enthusiastically supported by a cabal of about 20 billionaires; descendants, either literal or epistemic, of the treasonous bunch of CorpoRat Fascisti that wanted to overthrow FDR in '33.
Yer right, we don't have "time." Or ANY of the other attributes, either. Soros isn't even a really reliable "insurgent" funding source, like the Coors were/are, or the Kochs, or the Lilys, et al.
SCROTUS just ruled (5-4) that consumers no l onger may make common cause and, as a class, sue the Owners for their commdercial frauds and misdeeds.
They're gonna reverse all class-action jurisprudence in the Wal-mart case.
If it just too messy to change it, it ain't gonna change.

BlakNo1 said...

I'd argue that "it" started w/The National Security Act of 1947, but I'm silly like that.