Gadget by The Blog Doctor.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Lunatic Fringe

From the title of this post you might expect that I will be discussing Sarah Palin or Andrew Bolt, but this is not the case.

At this link you will find a very interesting article, written by Akim Reinhardt, which includes the following:

I study the past. It’s what I do for a living. Like any historian, I strive to understand the past in a historical context and on its own terms. But as a human being, I inevitably use my own presentist sense of morality and ethics when passing judgment on it. And here’s the thing. Slavery and genocides, those are easy for us now. Yeah, super wrong, we get it. But who would you have been back then, in the moment? We all want to believe that we would have been the person working to free slaves through the underground railroad, or living peaceably with Indians, or smuggling Jews out of Europe. But guess what? You wouldn’t have. Or at least, it’s not very likely. No, odds are, you would’ve been some douche bag who justified it with mealy mouthed excuses, or laid low and avoided talking about such unpleasantness. Why? I’ll tell you why.

Because when crazy shit is the norm, the lunatic fringe are the ones who embrace the right choice. If crazy is normal, then the right answer seems crazy. I’ll say it again. If crazy is the norm, then opposing it seems crazy.

Are you crazy? Are you John Brown on the fringe? I mean really on the fringe.

Reinhardt in discussing slavery makes the point that from the perspective of our current morality such an institution is outrageous, that is, we are all abolitionists. But, that does not mean that the historical abolitionists had views that were similar to us. We reject slavery because it is racist, but 19th century abolitionists accepted the view then current that the slaves were inferior, their objections were on religious grounds.

Reinhardt then discusses the immorality of meat eating. His claim is that just as we judge those in the past for their support for or acquiescence in slavery, so descendents, possibly centuries in the future, will be judging us on our barbaric practice of meat eating. Maybe ... anyway read the article, it is a good read.

What concerns me that in a few decades (not centuries) my generation will be judged by our grand children or great grand children. I expect the question, sometimes in the 2030s, "Grandpa, it was obvious more than 20 years ago that we were heading to the end of the fossil fuel era, and yet your generation did nothing to prepare for it."

Believing that we are likely heading into very difficult times seems lunatic to many people, but there is a great deal of evidence that this is the case.

As one of the commentors to the article noted:

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."

- Jiddu Krishnamurti

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