Log in

No account? Create an account
26 August 2008 @ 09:34 am
Free Night!  
Having sold loaned J to the gypsies some church friends so he could sleepover with their kids and play Yu-Gi-Oh and Munchkin all night, we were kid-free for the first time since he got here. We celebrated by going to our local (which can't allow children because it is too small to have seating the required distance from the bar).

Some people on my flist picked up the rant from yesterday and commented in their own LJs. That's not a problem at all, I feel like if I publish it here it is public, which is why I seldom, if ever, friends' lock anything.

I was serious that I didn't want to debate the issue itself, but I did want to address one point of view that came up.

It has been mooted that I posted what I posted just to take the opposite side on the debate. While I certainly have been known to do this, when it happens I usually invite the debate to continue rather than simply rant.

In this case, the reactions I've seen that got me here pushed my personal pet naïveté that the end does not justify the means. As we see far too often, those who define the ends change. If we decide that certain goals allow any measures, then others with whom we do not agree will decide the same thing for their goals when they are in position to do so. Even a "democratic" decision on what those goals might be can change if the attitude of the people changes and - as history demonstrates so many times - may have been wrong in the first place.

We do not and should not control the differences of ideals and goals that exist between people of good intentions. The only thing we can control is the playing field, the way we get our results, so that the treatment of issues one favors is the same as the treatment of issues one opposes.

Crying "foul" when protesters chain themselves to doors for one issue while crying "bravo" when they do so for another is one example. Denouncing the intervention of the Supreme Court against one pet law while praising it in favor of another fits as well. It's not limited to Conservatives or Liberals because it is human nature to be happy at one's own success while looking for chinks in the armor of the opposition when one is prevented from succeeding.

My other naïveté is that I truly believe that people of good conscience and intent exist on both sides of almost every issue (I have my lines, but they are mine alone and I don't think I speak for anyone else on where they are). Seldom are those people the ones who are picked up in the media, simply because they are boring and tend to speak in logical arguments which make for bad television. I personally know anti-abortion activists who express their activism in support for adoption alternatives and child welfare laws. I don't agree with their position on choice, but I respect them and their arguments. Of course, you will never see them on TV, because you can't do a followup story on the shouting from the other side when it doesn't provoke frothing at the mouth.

I continually seek out people I respect but with whom I disagree. I have done so for many years. I do it in part because I enjoy debate. I hope, however, that sometimes it serves to remind me that holding an opinion, no matter how strongly supported by others in my particular circle, doesn't ever give me the right to attribute lack of intelligence or heightened malevolence to those who don't hold that same opinion. In the long run it adds nothing to my side of the argument to do so.

Many of these kinds of issues are tied strongly to emotions. That makes them dangerous to debate, especially in print where it is difficult to communicate shades of meaning and sympathy for parts of positions while still disagreeing with others. I respect and love all those on my list who hold different views - that's why I virtually hang out with you.
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Keriskeristor on August 26th, 2008 02:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you! For both this post and the previous one.
madfilkentist: CarlWindowmadfilkentist on August 26th, 2008 02:32 pm (UTC)
There are times I have to reach conclusions I just don't like. While I believe that a woman as a human being has the right to have an abortion, I've never been able to convince myself that the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade was Constitutionally supported. If I don't think others can rewrite the Constitution to suit their preferences, I can't either.
markbernsteinmarkbernstein on August 26th, 2008 03:05 pm (UTC)
For your reference, I added a comment to Cat's thread here.
carolfcarolf on August 26th, 2008 06:25 pm (UTC)
And mine follows his.

Wow, for something we weren't going to discuss, we're discussing it a lot, hey? :-)

Bill Roperbillroper on August 26th, 2008 03:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Bill.
Alanpatoadam on August 26th, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks to you and catsittingstill for your thought-provoking posts on this subject!
Ericacatalana on August 26th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
It's a pleasure to know you, Bill. Although I don't get the chance to talk to you as much as I'd like at cons - and you don't post on such things on LJ a whole lot - it is always a pleasure to listen to your thoughts and exchange ideas with you.
kizoku42kizoku42 on August 27th, 2008 12:53 am (UTC)
Do the ends justify the means? Sometimes, yes. Almost anyone nowadays would approve of the people of the underground railroad who broke the law to help slaves escape. But it was breaking the law. Is it all right to kill a person? The difference between murder, self defence, war, or protecting a pre-school full of toddlers is purely a question of the ends. Shooting another person is the same act. True, we give it different names, but it's still the same act. Would I find a person innocent of a crime they definitely committed if I were on the jury and approved of what they did? Hoo boy, that could be a tough decision. How vehemently do I believe in what they did? And still, I believe in the law too. If you don't support the law, society falls apart. Tough decisions when you see lots of gray.
msminlrmsminlr on August 27th, 2008 01:30 am (UTC)
OTOH, sometimes the law IS an ass, and the only way to bring this to the attention of whole bunches of people is to very publicly get sent to jail for doing what YOU see as the non-asinine thing to do.
Bill Suttonbedlamhouse on August 27th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC)
This is an extremely good point. Yes, to a very great extent the end (such as self defense) is used to rationalize the means. At a certain point, society even accepts that some outcomes allow for means that would be considered criminal in other cases.

There is always room for analysis and controversy over whether some means are justified. Where I have a disagreement is with people's attitudes when the means are legal and proper and yet gore their particular ox, versus use of the same means when it is to bolster their own positions.

I suppose in this specific issue the ends could be considered a matter of life and death, though it is complicated by the fact that each side sees the life involved differently. Until that underlying belief can be resolved somehow, the only way to condemn one side for using drastic measures is to deny the validity of their claim to life-and-death status for their end - something I personally find difficult to do without proof to the contrary, on either side.
Cat Sitting Stillcatsittingstill on August 27th, 2008 02:00 pm (UTC)
I am thinking along the same lines as you, I suspect. I used to think that the ends don't justify the means, but then I thought of a whole bunch of situations where means that are normally not acceptable (violence and deceit, for example) become acceptable, at least to me. So now I'm of the "sometimes justify some means and sometimes don't and some means can't be justified" school of thought. It's complicated.
carolfcarolf on August 27th, 2008 02:37 pm (UTC)
Greys are always difficult to sort. For me, one useful, though hardly perfect, test is the integrity of the means to the ends.

If your end is to stop killing, then breaking the law to spring the white hat guy out of the sheriff's jail is a means that is integral to the end. No less illegal, but at least congruent.

If your goal is to keep the US Constitution safe, and you do so by suspending the constitution ... well the ends no way justify the means, since the means in fact make the ends impossible.

Not a perfect test, but one that goes quite a ways. Supporting life by killing doctors is such a huge dissonance, only those blinded by idealogy -- or completely lacking in critical thinking skills -- can possibly miss the inherent contradiction.

Bill Suttonbedlamhouse on August 27th, 2008 02:40 pm (UTC)
one useful, though hardly perfect, test is the integrity of the means to the ends.

Very well put - I think that's a fantastic initial step in sorting out what feels "right" and what does not.
Bill Suttonbedlamhouse on August 27th, 2008 02:48 pm (UTC)
Supporting life by killing doctors is such a huge dissonance, only those blinded by idealogy -- or completely lacking in critical thinking skills -- can possibly miss the inherent contradiction.

Is it really a contradiction? Without supporting the act itself, I'd argue that the protection of innocent life by destroying that which threatens it is a fairly acceptable argument for violence in other areas. The wall is whether someone evaluating the act sees the end the same way - the entire argument tilts on the definition of life in this case. If society somehow agreed on that definition of innocent life, the argument against the act would turn to society's role in stopping such acts vs. individual action (vigilantism), which is usually not an acceptable means under most circumstances.
carolfcarolf on August 27th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC)
Well, I chose my words carefully (for once.)

I contend there is more than a semantical difference between "saving" life and "supporting" life.

Killing a murderer in the act of murder to save the victim does not contradict. The end is not supporting all life, but one specific life.

Killing a potential murderer because she might murder is not saving a life, and it certainly is not supporting the right of all to live.

Being "pro-life" by ending life ... just does not compute.

And that is even before we get to defining what is, or isn't, "life."

I will, however, agree that the point is a fine one, and fine lines can be obliterated with emotion.
Cat Sitting Stillcatsittingstill on August 27th, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
It's okay if you want to identify me in your post, Bill. The only reason I didn't identify you is that I thought you might not be comfortable with it. I'll link to your original post also, if you like.
Bill Suttonbedlamhouse on August 27th, 2008 02:38 pm (UTC)
Sure, that's no problem. I didn't point this back to you because I wanted to take it to that next subject, which was inspired more by comments within your post as opposed to the post itself.

Thanks for the exchanges, by the way - while I don't always have the time to formulate complex and well-reasoned responses, the fact that I am forced to put in such an effort when I respond to people of your caliber keeps me honest.