Saturday, September 6, 2014

Moral Indignation is like Teaching a Pig to Sing

My favorite Mark Twain quote is:
Never try to teach a pig to sing. It's a waste of time, and it annoys the pig.
Facts & Arts ran a reprint of a statement issued by Human Rights Watch Director Bill Frelick on the subject of ISIS. His title was:
Why ISIS is immune to 'naming and shaming'
He makes his case well but then concludes with the sentence:
And even if the perpetrators are beyond shaming, the moral imperative to name names has never been greater.
The question, however, is who is either served or damaged by such a moral imperative. ISIS seems to be taking their playbook from the Nazis, who, in turn got it from Friederich Nietzsche. In Nietzsche's words, they see themselves as "beyond good and evil," at least as those concepts are defined by those they oppose. As a result, having one's name named may actually be treated as a badge of honor, recognition of "a job well done," if you please. The effect is the same as annoying the pig. The real question is how one can respond to such actions without losing one's own moral compass; and, since we now seem to be at the mercy of governmental systems that no longer have such a moral compass, my guess is that we shall never see anything more than dithering jawboning.

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