My blog contains a large number of posts. A few are included in various other publications, or as attached stories and chronicles in my emails; many more are found on loose leaves, while some are written carelessly in margins and blank spaces of my notebooks. Of the last sort most are nonsense, now often unintelligible even when legible, or half-remembered fragments. Enjoy responsibly.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Loose Lips

From the apparent usefulness of the social virtues, it has readily been inferred by skeptics, both ancient and modern, that all moral distinctions arise from education, and were, at first, invented, and afterwards encouraged ... in order to render men tractable, and subdue their natural ferocity and selfishness, which incapacitated them for society - David Hume

These shared limitations of morality - these defining characteristics of our societal structure - allow our civility to exist. Beyond laying the groundwork for law, they help us to understand one another. Social virtues and moral distinctions work to transcend religion, culture, and class. The hallmark of a structured society becomes compromised when one of these moral codes is broken. Scorn and punishment come quickly and often with great vengeance, either through demand of restitution or, once the punishment or scorn has run its course, expulsion.

The cliché is the standard in westerns: someone killed someone and revenge must be taken in blood. There is a similar theme in real life, although recompense in civilized societies has become the norm. This tradeoff exists because we seem to be incapable of simply dealing with our own affairs. We are petty, insecure, trivial, and needy. The desire to feel that we are bigger than ourselves undermines our actual potential. At the same time, in considering that humility is the quickest overlooked virtue, we can hear the voice of Freud echo through life declaring that the ego is not master in its own house. We are all small creatures longing to be big. And in return for a momentary increase in stature, we are willing to cast aside our shared functionalist interpretations of social or cultural entities and do as we wish.

As much as I would like to preach the gospel of forgiveness or tell a story about carrying your faults, I am not currently in the position to change the rules. Instead, I am now faced with dealing out punishment for a blatantly broken social virtue, and it is difficult to reconcile my own humility and ego while faced with the task at hand. Something must be done, a price must be paid, and the scorned must become an example. My job is to complete the circle and restore what Hume underscored as our societal natural balance. In this task, I am both reluctantly ardent and callously humble.

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