Friday, May 21, 2010

"We get our weirdest when we compete over who is the most pure."

Yes, we’re moving into an era of hyper-accountability. Soon Cain will no longer answer, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” but will take great pride in keeping his brother on the straight and narrow. The Cain of tomorrow will be a pest, a prig and a self-righteous tattle-tale. The Spanish Inquisition and the holocaust of the Nazis were the result of just such a trend getting out of control.
From Roy H. Williams' Monday Morning Memo which I just finished listening to (here's the mp3 link location).

I have been noticing that for a while and the heat has been turned up in the last year, or so it seems to me. It smacked me upside the head when we were hosting a party and a guest innocently asked if I recycled, while waving an aluminum can. I had a surprising moment of inward cringing before saying, "No." Another friend nearby jokingly said, "Julie, Jesus would be green, you know."

Yes, he really was joking. And we laughed. But he was making a point. And it was not him making the point that mattered. I didn't care, honestly because that's nothing. I have been getting lectures from a particular grocery store check out girl for some time. In fact, I wickedly delight in asking for plastic bags when I am in her line even though my preference is paper.

The point was that I was conditioned to know somewhere, somehow judgment was going to be rendered. It made me reflect upon how many people these days think nothing of butting into other people's business at the drop of a hat.

I've been paying more attention ever since.

Perhaps that is why the Monday Morning Memo had me nodding and saying, "Preach it!"

It is also undoubtedly why I noticed the C.S. Lewis quote at Brandywine Books today. It starts like this ...
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.
Be sure to read or listen to that Monday Morning Memo and take special note of his prescribed antidotes. Another way to say that would be "live and let live."


  1. Tante Leonie5/22/10, 8:31 AM

    Thanks for that, Julie.

    I would have thought he was only joking about the mud floors and no-flush toilets, but we actually know an educated, professional couple who refuses to have a refrigerator or freezer in their house.

    They are very proud of what they perceive as their high degree of "green" cred.

  2. Jesus would be green

    Yeah, well, Jesus also would not be nagging people about if they recycle. As a matter of fact, he might say that one should worry about one's own carbon footprint before checking the contents of his neighbor's recycling bin.

  3. While I take your point, and agree with it, I'm not sure that I agree that the Spanish Inquisition is a good example of this kind of hyper-accountability.

    The Spanish Inquisition was driven by secular concerns stemming from the Reconquest of moorish lands in Spain. The Jews and Muslims in reconquered territories were given the choice of converting to Christianity or leaving Spain. Not surprisingly, many of these conversos maintained their previous faith in secret. And as a result they were not trusted--they were regarded as a potential fifth columnists. No doubt some of them were. As heretics, technically speaking, they came under the authority of the Church, which is where the Inquisition came in.

    I'm not defending the Inquisition, mind you; and if the conversos were a fifth column, that stems back to their forced conversions, which were a great evil. But the important point is that the primary motivation for pursuing the conversos came not from the church, but from the state.

  4. I knew that Spanish Inquisition bit was going to get someone to comment. :-)

    Here's what I know about the Spanish Inquisition. There were inquisitions all over Europe and they were largely regarded as being fine. In fact, I seem to recall that sometimes they were preferred over regular court systems because they were more fair. However, Torquemada was a different story for all sorts of reasons. At that point, I have to fall back on my only other knowledge which is from The Captain of Castile. Samuel Shellabarger has held up every other time that I put him to the historical test so I will take his characterization on faith for the sake of this comment. His characterization was that it was run by venal men for their own gain. Like many other institutions of that time did, especially in their "local branches."

    All that being said, I think we could just let it go for the sake of the overall point. We'll just mentally substitute Salem Witch Trials, shall we? :-)

  5. "Live and let live" assumes the other's behavior fosters life without detriment.

    My concern is the opposite: that nobody wants to get involved or invest themselves in another person.

  6. Moonshadow, you make an excellent point. So many people only want to say the right thing without putting themselves to the necessary trouble to foster help or improvement that others need.

    However, even when we do that, there is the knowledge that one cannot make someone else change if they don't want to. I will not go into details here but I have seen one person drastically change for the better because of their determination to cooperate with those who want to help them. And I have seen one person stubbornly resist and resent all such efforts on their behalf, which ended in many wasted years that didn't have to be that way.

    Perhaps the key is to offer help and then let the person live their lives? But I really don't need people offering me help on a ton of issues. Heaven only knows that public service announcements and government programs make us very aware of a lot of what the tyrants want us to do. :-)

  7. I think it depends on the inquiry. When I visit friends, I always ask about recycling when we're cleaning in the kitchen. (And as a result, my brother saves plastic bottles for when I visit, since he doesn't have recycling.)

    On the other hand, I have had lots of strangers in grocery stores get in my business since the '90s. Evidently because I was pretty but fat, they saw it as a public service to stop me from buying cheese and ramen. For a while I was considering carrying my endocrinologist's card so they could offer their opinions directly to my physician. :)

    Then again, the whole idea is mired in our pop culture, isn't it? Right now there are two radio ads with children lecturing adults on things they know nothing about (e.g. finances). And a multitude of musicians, actors, etc. think that "raising awareness" (aka talking on various interviews) is the next best thing to being leaders.