13 January 2013

Sandy Hook Notwithstanding

Call me a hopelesssly muddleheaded optimist (never mind for now what other epithets I may have earned).

It's just that the older I get, and the more I see of "Life" so-called, the more I'm persuaded that most people essentially want to do good. If not exactly to be good (which can be a very different thing in any case). At the same time I'm also struck by how often we mortals are surrounded by, if not saturated with, some really screwed-up notions of what good is, and how it ought to be done. In fact, more and more I'm inclined to wonder if the most perennial routine moral problem we humans face is not people who are bent on doing harm, or who don't care a damn - or are incapable of caring - what harm they do. It is rather the utter cluelessness of the rest of us who try, or purport, or presume to deal with the various potential and other harm-doers.

But now try to imagine, if you can, that more of our "great and good" people were to become actually serious about doing good well, for a change. And not just doing it passionately, or exhaustingly, or expensively. Or even expertly. What might be an outcome?

Surely, at very least, we'd find ourselves paying a rather closer and more respectful - perhaps even humble? - attention to individuals themselves? While channeling somewhat less of our usual reverence to the procedures, programs, systems designed to manage (= warehouse) them? Might we be rather more attentive to individual specifics, rather less beholden to, or besotted with, generalities? In short, rather more reverent - at least the Jews and Christians among us - of the things God has made, a mite less worshipful of the products of our own tinkering?

I'm not saying even a bare majority of us would necessarily agree concerning what to do about this or that individual. At least not right away. But I do suspect that more than a few good and talented people - each in their respective ways, and according to their respective schools and disciplines and training - would become vastly better at recognizing the point(s) at which cognitive or perceptual impairment veers off into mental derangement, and mental derangement teeters on the edge of moral depravity.

Of course those points would vary, again, from one individual to another. (Thus raising the inevitable questions of manpower and availability. On the other hand didn't Somebody, once upon a pre-automated time, have something useful to say about plentiful harvests and shortages of labor?)  Hence my original emphasis on attentiveness, and in particular to those immemorial complexities in any living thing that predate our busy hands and brains and procedures. Along with its implication that, before we can look at any one or any thing in terms of what we can make of it, or ought to make of it - before, indeed, we decide we ought to make it into anything else at all - it might behoove us to spend a bit more time understanding what it is already. And since our various warehousing systems, theories, programs, etc, are almost by definition more concerned with the use ("What can we get out of it?") than with the knowledge or the intrinsic value of any creature, frankly I'm at a loss to understand just how they're supposed to do that. Or at least in a way that actually lightens the burden of our omni-expanding security procedures? As opposed to our usual pattern of making them still heavier? Or more obnoxiously invasive? Or more behavior-monitoring (or even -modifying?)

Just a thought.

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