The only thing that rubs me wrong is the invocation of Brokeback Mountain. Really it falls prey to itself here because Brokeback isn’t something used in line with the argument. In fact, the way it’s used is counter to the argument. The argument being made here is for self-determination and discrimination (or judgement). Brokeback is a movie about two cowboys who want to be gay on their ranch. Fine, great, it’s not my thing. If they had wanted to make the correct point, they should have pointed out towns where they have pride parades, etc. There’s no pride in being “straight” and they make the point with Desperate Housewives saying the message isn’t “you’ll make a great family” but that “your life will suck if you’re a housewife”. It’s the tyranny of standards argument being put forward. That being said, towns with pride parades do represent a form of tyranny. With no pride parade celebrating wanting to be straight, or (my favorite) the white heritage day, celebrating any other holiday is flat out wrong. While this argument itself plays into the problem raised in the article that we’re treating everything as mediocre, I believe this is the point. If there’s no discernible mediocrity, if there’s nothing which is obviously evil then we can coexist. But this requires judgement and this is the crux of the article. The Brokeback reference is used wrongly.
On the other hand I am sympathetic to the idea that we have no moral compass as a society. If one group is off murdering your group, then you probably should go over there and kill them before they get you. As pointed out in the article and that godawful song Imagine (which is another pet peeve of mine I happened to lol at when I saw it come up), Hitler started in a beer hall. He didn’t have his own nation. Germany didn’t wake up one day and say “well lets give this nazi thing a go and hand out microwaves! we’ll tell those jews that they’re hats!”. There is evil in the hearts of men and we should seek to stamp it out and lament the fact that doing so requires armed conflict. Another opportunity is missed here, but brought up under the guise of Abu Graib. Treating people badly to prevent or persuade them from evil should be preferable to killing them outright. This is what separates the west from the middle east. We don’t go around bombing their civilian centers. We do give them a trial. We treat them badly, but we don’t actually hurt them. Again, the point is lost in the articles writing but the point he wants to make is restraint is a virtue. You should own a gun. You should know how to use it, be comfortable with it, and pop off rounds every weekend. This doesn’t mean when there is conflict you immediately smoke the guy, but it means that you understand the zen of gun ownership. You’re willing to treat people badly (pointing a gun at them) to prevent further evil (shooting them). Of course when their potential for evil outweighs the actual cost in terms of real evil of keeping them alive, our heros should be perfectly willing to shoot them with confidence and sleep like babies at night.
Try putting that on TV. It will be made an action movie, rather than a movie about self doubt, moral exploration and finally confidence and sorrow at conflict.
Minor quibbles about framing aside, it’s a decent read. I said to my brother the other day that we had, as a society, fallen prey to the spiritual danger of not owning a farm. The topic was the LL Bean catalog. The version they sent us, supposedly the full catalog, didn’t include any of the hunting section. Well it turns out they do have a hunting section and it seems to have some nice stuff. But the point was that a lot of these places make up crap so we can play dress up. We own boots which don’t keep our feet warm, we buy camo jackets which only serve to make our corpses harder to find when we freeze to death, etc. When we do make value judgements on things, we don’t make them because they’re rational or just, we make them because we want to play dress up and this camo is more military than that camo, etc. I realize this flies in the face of the plea above saying that barring egregious offenses to the general morality of society (murder), we simply shouldn’t care.
As above, so below, or what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If we say that something is crap we should ensure that we ourselves can pass our own judgement. This is why I’m not huge on EMS or Cabelas either. There might be good stuff there, it might work as advertised, but it’s overpriced and therefor it is vanity. My favorite hunting jacket is still an M65 Field Jacket. It’s warm, it’s built correctly (who in gods name thought velcro was smart to put on tactical stuff?), it’s camo, it’s got pockets in the right places and the best part is that they’re $20 when they’re on sale. Can’t be beat. But this is a good example of the middle road. Traps are on each side of the line. It’s possible to be too permissive as it is to be too iron fisted. How do we maintain the middle ground? We examine ourselves and we judge.