Thursday, July 14, 2005

Apologists among us

I just added Norm Geras' Normblog to the blogroll,
he had an essay yesterday that was astoundingly
good, that logically destroys anyone who says flying
planes into buildings or bombing subways or iraqi
children is the fault or moral responsibility of the US.

It needs to be seen and said clear: there are, amongst us, apologists for what the killers do, and they make more difficult the long fight that is needed to defeat them. (To forestall any possible misunderstanding on this point: I do not say these people are not entitled to the views they express or to their expression of them. They are. Just as I am entitled to criticize their views for the wretched apologia they amount to.) ...

The fact is that if causes and explanation are indeed a serious enterprise and not just a convenient partisan game, then it needs to be recognized that causality is one thing and moral responsibility another, and though the two are related, they aren't the same thing. Observe...

Me, David and Sam are chatting. I make a remark to David, David gets cross because of the remark and he punches me in the mouth. Sam says 'You had it coming'. In this story it is uncontroversially true - I can tell you this, being the story's one and only author - that my remark to David and Sam is the cause of David's anger. Is Sam, then, right to tell me in effect that I either share the blame for David's punching me in the mouth or am entirely to blame for it myself? Well, the content of my remark was 'I love the music of Bob Dylan'. David for his part doesn't like the music of Bob Dylan. I think most people will recognize without the need of further urging on my part that, contrary to what Sam says, I didn't have it coming, David is entirely to blame for punching me in the mouth and I, accordingly, am not to blame in any way at all. If, on the other hand, my remark was not about Bob Dylan's music, but was a deeply offensive comment about David's mother, then without troubling to weight the respective shares of blame here, I'd say it would have been reasonable for Sam to tell me that I must bear some of it. ..

[go read the rest]

I'm not saying this simplistic metaphor explains all the political
disagreements in the past 5 years, but it does start to unravel
the tangled skein that exists whenever politics, policy or the war
in iraq or on terror are discussed.


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