Monday, November 7, 2011

Ethics Beyond Good and Evil: for Layo

Responding to my earlier post (or to the post from R.O. which inspired it: as is often the case, it's unclear what triggered this), Layo said:
Oh for fuck's sake. Only a fucking ham slice would claim that just because they personally have zero emotional intelligence, there's no difference between good and evil.
Is killing babies evil? I don't know too many people who would justify the murder of innocents.  (To be fair, my sample may be skewed since I would quickly dissociate myself from anyone who tried).  But now let's go to the next question: at what point does a fetus become an innocent baby? And for bonus points, answer this: how much obligation do we have to protect innocent babies from those who would murder them?  Is allowing 1,000 babies to be killed more evil than killing their murderer and thereby stopping the slaughter?

The readers of my blog are likely to have a certain degree of consensus on this issue.  I suspect that most are in favor of a woman's right to safe and legal abortion.  Should I post this conundrum to a Catholic forum, I suspect I might find a very different consensus.  They might well point out the inherent absurdity of condemning infanticide while permitting late-term abortions. They might even express approval at those who shut down the dark Satanic mills of the abortion industry through civil disobedience or acts of vandalism.  A few might even go so far as to state that George Tiller's murder was a mixed (or even an unmixed) blessing, since his death saved the lives of many babies. 

Speak for yourself, Filan...

People on both sides of this issue have very strong feelings: their emotional intelligence has led them to unshakeable yet contradictory conclusions.  Given this dichotomy, it's clear that "emotional intelligence" is an unreliable guide at best. 

Most abusers will happily explain to you that "the bitch had it coming." Most criminals will gladly point to all the extenuating circumstances that led up to their misdeeds and paint themselves as victims of an unjust society.  The most dastardly will find ways to excuse or explain their actions - indeed, humanity as a species may be programmed for this sort of self-justification.  Outside of horror films, very few people willfully and knowingly do what they feel is evil for the sake of evil.   

Fuck. To clarify, the perception that one can either be a Powerful Abuser or a Deluded Victim is a false dichotomy. It's used by abusive fuckwads on people who disapprove of abusiveness. "If you don't like abusing people, then you're a brainwashed victim." I will beat your face in if that's what it takes to defend myself, but that's a far cry from using as much of my power as I can to force other people to do what I want just because, wow, I examined the consequences of being a fucking dick, and short-term, it's a win! Selfish, irresponsible use of power does not make you a free, lordly Ubermensch. It makes you an asshole and a coward and everybody knows it. You know it. You do it because you're afraid all the time. Everyone knows you're trying to make other people suffer the way you once suffered. The only people who think it's great are people like you: nutless porkboys.
And I'm sure that the person who gets hir face beaten in by Layo will see Layo as evil and hirself as a victim.  Nor would I expect Layo to see herself as a powerful abuser. As I pointed out above, abusers typically see themselves as victims when they are called on the carpet. I would expect her to feel quite satisfied with her morality and to justify her actions (to herself and to others) by whatever means prove necessary.

To that end, it appears Layo is engaging in a favorite technique of feminist argument: attempting to derail conversation by painting herself as a victim and those who disagree with her as abusers.    Layo would rather see herself as a victim than as an abuser, because in her circles oppressors are bad people. To that end she tries to use her femininity as a trump card: she hopes to take the moral advantage away from her male opponent, while simultaneously absolving herself from any taint of superiority. Alas, this technique is doomed to failure from the start. Victims win pity if they are lucky and contempt if they aren't, but only rarely do they get anything but scraps thrown to them by those who are more fortunate.