Destruction of property

As we were driving back to the ‘burbs from an outing in San Francisco today, we saw a rare sight:  an older lady nattily attired in furs.  Standing near her was a young woman, screaming into the lady’s face.  The children were mesmerized.  First, they’d never seen furs and, second, the spectacle of a public screaming intrigued them.  As we drove past, they asked why the women were fighting.  Mr. Bookworm said that they could just be two women who knew each other, but he and I also posited that the young woman might be a stranger who launched a verbal assault against the fur-clad woman simply because the latter was wearing furs.

The kids were perplexed.  Mr. Bookworm and I explained that in the old days (a la I Love Lucy), lots of women desired and wore furs.  We also explained that, while some furs (such as mink) were harvested pretty much like chicken, other furs were the product of very inhumane trapping (foxes) or clubbing (baby seals).  We also explained that the anti-fur people had gotten more and more aggressive, to the point of throwing paint all over women’s fur coats, regardless of whether they were farmed fur or fur obtained through more brutal approaches.

What fascinated me at that point was my daughter’s comment about the paint throwing:  “That’s a really good idea.”  And in a way she’s right.  I think it was the risk of paint more than anything else that stopped a generation of women from wearing furs.  It just wasn’t economically viable to wear a $20,000 fox coat and take the risk that it would be destroyed in an instant by someone wielding a pot of paint and then vanishing into the crowd.

On the other hand, if my daughter accepts that the paint strategy was a good one, she’s also accepting that it’s perfectly okay to destroy other people’s property to achieve your goals — and that way lies anarchy.  My husband may be a liberal, but he owns a car and a house, and he perceived the same problem with her delighted acceptance of an “end justifies the means” philosophy.  We therefore asked her to imagine whether it was okay for someone who does’t like global warming to smash up our car — while we’re in it.  Or for someone who thinks it unfair that she has luxuriant hair, while sick kids go bald, to cut off her hair on the street.  Those examples, which hit close to home, brought her to an awareness of the fact that we like to think that our property is (and should be) inviolable.  Our next step with her is to brainstorm ways to change policies with which we disagree without personal attacks or destruction of property.

All in all, though, the whole conversation was interesting because it showed me how easy it is to convince children that violent attacks and property destruction, because they are effective, must be good — assuming that you agree with the end goal.  It’s a reminder that, because there’s little reason to believe that Ayers has changed his ideology, and he’s been very vocal in his belief that his violent tactics “didn’t do enough,” we really do need to be vigilant against seeping Ayer-ism in an Obama administration.

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Comments

  1. suek says

    Ok…this is off topic, but an appropriate thread isn’t available. Well, you could absolutely stretch a point about caring about one’s own pleasures over global warming and call it on topic, but the truth of the matter is that it’s just plain funny…

    http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2008/12/best-craiglist-ad-ever.html

    He has a couple of other goodies on the main page that are worth checking out…

    And…if anybody want a Christmas gift for a loved one, I just happen to have one of those real animal fur stoles…ranch mink, in fact. Bought it at a church auction by mistake. I also have a very old black persian lamb coat with white mink (ermine) collar and cuffs. Haven’t worn either of them any time in the recent past. The persian lamb is really warm. Which is why they were worn, originally. No paint on either – but then, I haven’t worn them in California. In fact, I think last time I wore the Persian lamb, nobody cared. Boy _that_ was a long time ago!!!

  2. Brian Rude says

    Your anecdote brings up a subject that I have been giving some thought to lately. What philosophy should we teach to kids in school, and when, and how? I am not asking this as a philosopher. I don’t know anything about philosophy. But your question about what ends justify what means strikes me as a philosophical question that ought to be given considerable thought long before the need for that thought ever comes into play. The conversation you had in your car, as you describe it, sounds very good. It could pay big dividends at some point in the future when one of those children is a little older and being pressured by peers to engage in questionable means for a seemingly important end.

    Shouldn’t all kids have the benefit of thinking about some basic philosophical questions when they are young? I think they should. And I think schools would do well to take some steps to provide such benefit. Unfortunately my thinking has not gone beyond this basic idea. What philosophical ideas could be profitably dealt with in fifth grade? I don’t know. What philosophical ideas would work best in high school? Which are too advanced or obscure even for freshmen in college? What philosophical ideas are just a waste of time? What philosophical ideas are too close to religious doctrine? Which philosophical ideas would make adolescence less traumatic?

    I don’t have any answers, just questions.

  3. Ymarsakar says

    Those examples, which hit close to home, brought her to an awareness of the fact that we like to think that our property is (and should be) inviolable. Our next step with her is to brainstorm ways to change policies with which we disagree without personal attacks or destruction of property.

    There is always the very real threat that if you throw something at someone that they will interpret it as an attack/ambush scenario and try to chase you down and kill you. I’m just saying…

    I would rather be close to my enemies, where they can’t use their projectile weapons or grenades as effectively, than far away and get shot down or blown up. And if they have a suicide vest, then it is unlikely they will let it be known to me by yelling or throwing things at me before hand. And even then, closing the distance may be the only chance at life, depending on when the guy will detonate in the crowd. But, that’s irrelevant to this topic: at this time, at least.

    “Laws” are designed to protect both sides. They are there to protect me from being murdered but it is also there to protect me from murdering anyone I think is going to murder me. You see how this goes.

    Tell your child that unless they are the ones with all of the violence and capacity to kill, and more so that they have to be immortal, they should think twice about breaking the rule of law for personal whim. It is something all adults must confront, one way or another. Are they going to obey the law cause they don’t want to be punished? Or are they going to obey the law because they honestly believe it is better to live under the law than outside? There is an extreme ethical difference between those two positions.

    I tell you, Book, all the money going to the Palestinians and what not would have gone to eco-terrorists in a different age. They still might, if eco-terrorists controlled a source of funds as rich as oil and if the Islamic Jihadists were beaten like the Nazis were.

    It could pay big dividends at some point in the future when one of those children is a little older and being pressured by peers to engage in questionable means for a seemingly important end.

    I believe it will only pay “big dividends” if they know their life is on the line when they feel pressured to have the ends justify the means. Most people only have the spectre of death to override their need to “belong”. Only a minority will allow such anachronistic things as integrity to stand in the way. Statistically, most people bow to pressure, rather than adhering to integrity. They may mature and grow stronger, but not usually at that age.

    Shouldn’t all kids have the benefit of thinking about some basic philosophical questions when they are young? I think they should. And I think schools would do well to take some steps to provide such benefit.

    I wouldn’t trust the public schools to teach dogs how to play frisbee, let alone such things as philosophy to the next generation.

    “Standing near her was a young woman, screaming into the lady’s face.”

    Sounds like one of those situations I would have tried to get closer to, in order to “pick up the conversation”.

    As I said, I am a curious person. It would have been… interesting, at least.

    Ok…this is off topic, but an appropriate thread isn’t available.

    Very funny, Suek.

  4. David Foster says

    William Roper:So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
    Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
    William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
    Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

    I’m not sure the real Sir Thomas More was a tolerant as this passage (from “A Man for All Seasons”) would suggest, but it’s a great passage nonetheless.

  5. Ymarsakar says

    Foster, I think that argument is true (as I’ve seen it argued over at VC), but I tend to think the largest threat we face right now is more laws, not less. It is more laws, the use of laws such as Britain’s libel laws, to silence criticism of the Saudis; it is the laws banning guns, the laws promoting sharia, and the laws on “hate speech” that is currently causing more lawlessness, in Britain. Do you agree or disagree, Foster?

    I would also rephrase More’s dialogue by saying that the law is entirely intended for the benefit of human beings. This was my wording from before.

    *******

    So now we call ourselves a civilization, an advanced one at that, where we need lawyers to maintain the rule of law for us? It sounds rather prototypically insane. What kind of society depends upon those who have no stake in the outcome, lawyers, to handle points of honor? What kind of society depends upon lawyers and the police, for self-protection and the protection of their families? Is this a serf society or one built by rugged individuals, frontiersmen and women?

    There is a distinct line here between ‘separatism’, which is the Code Pink, Berkley, Leftist bullcrap that says “I am better off by myself” and a recognition of the human condition: that peace treaties and social compacts are first made between individuals. The police don’t stop us from killing each other. The police only stops us from killing strangers. Strangers we don’t know and haven’t made a compact with. In a hunter gatherer society or an Arab tribal society, that would mean the “Outsider” is the enemy, period, cause you can’t trust the stranger to abide by the same codes as you do. The police makes us the guarantee, and with the lawyers and judges and the whole “justice system”, that these “strangers” who call themselves the same name that we call ourselves (Americans) won’t violate our code or our rights. So we don’t have to launch a first strike on them and cut off their heads in the middle of the night for fear that they will do the same to us.

    That, contrary to Don’s claims, isn’t giving the Devil the benefit of the law, it is giving people who are innocent of any crimes except the crime of being human the benefit of the law. The fact that the Devil, Al Sadr, or Osama may be classified as “human” is just something of happenstance, but it in itself constrains our actions for laws don’t exist that only applies to specific “user specified” demographics. That is not a law so much as a whim, a dictatorial, feudalistic, absolute monarchist whim at that. Adults recognize this reality and they recognize that because the law was never designed to protect evil people, a law that protects evil people over good people will eventually not be a law any longer. That is a fact of human self-survival. People are not going to tolerate it for long, and if the locals can’t change it, like in Iraq, somebody outside your country will. And it was not the law that hanged Saddam Hussein, in the end. It was people, by their own actions, through their own social networking and agreements. Lawyers sought to defend Saddam Hussein, for what else would lawyers exist for?

    *********

    The last part isn’t designed as a slight against lawyers. I love lawyers, well, if they are like Bookworm. It is just a recognition that lawyers can’t make a judgment on their clients and then say “I will not defend this guy”. The legal system is not designed for lawyers to make that judgment and to act upon it. It would be ‘unethical” so to speak. Saddam getting a good lawyer to defend himself was not the problem. The problem was that the lawyers who wanted to defend Saddam believed he was innocent or at least believed that they could use the trial to hurt the true guilty party: Bush and Rumsfield.

    I also have the video of the Thomas More dialogue, that David Foster wrote a transcript of.

    Link

  6. Ymarsakar says

    To dumb it down to the essentials. I would phrase it as “the Marine Corp protects Code Pink and Leftists because they are paid to. The rest of us, they protect for free.” This is something from the military community, btw, not just something I made up.

    The “Law”, if you view it as an entity, exists to serve the needs of honest, law abiding people, not outlaws. The fact that the law must also cover outlaws, with some kind of fairness, is the PRICE the law and we pay. And if the price gets higher than the benefits, guess what people like me will be forced to do.

  7. Ymarsakar says

    I could provide no better example of my argument than this

    The British, because they had to obey “British law” and the “deal” they made with Sadr, betrayed more than just their own safety. They betrayed the lives and security of countless individuals: including women and children that died under the blades of the death squads in Basrah. Steven Vincent died because the British allowed the “Law” to take higher precedence than the lives of the innocent. It is fine if individuals fighting for truth and justice are willing to pay this price for the rule of law. It is something else entirely to get others to sacrifice for your own benefit, while they get nothing but a cold grave.

    When people, including British and Americans, use the Thomas More argument to justify such things or even if it looks like they are trying to justify such things, I will not abide by such corruption. Not even the benefits of the “Law” are as clear cut as people think it is. If it was easy, Iraq would have been at peace now for years. I think we do a disservice to justice if we delude ourselves into thinking real world solutions can somehow fit into this “template” of the rule of law always being a Good Thing ™. The Rule of Law is a principle, but like all principles, it does not mean it will translate automatically into good things if you use it.

    The world is a complex place and there is no amount of talking points that will distill it down to something that we can easily choose: like when we order dinner in a restaurant.

  8. Danny Lemieux says

    I am afraid that I have lost respect for the Law. The Law IS an ass!

    Today, the Law protects us for a price. You can seek justice only if you are willing to bankrupt yourself and outspend the other. I know that there are others that know well that the law eventually applies to those with the most money (think of the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision) – all they have to do is litigate you into submission.

    Been there, done that, so spare me the pontifications.

    Sorry if that sounds cynical…but our Law was made by a fallible mankind and when the fabric of society is rent, it becomes a tool of suppression. Maybe I have been living in Chicagoland too long but, hey, the rest of you not from Chicago are about to discover this as we enter the era of a one-party state. Justice goes to the highest bidder.

    OK…now I’ve got to quit. I am really getting waaay too cynical, I know.

  9. Danny Lemieux says

    Oh, and on the issue of furs….I’ve worn Polarguard in sub-arctic conditions and I’ve worn furs – there really is nothing better than fur to keep you warm.

    And, although I disagree with killing animals solely for their fur (instead of for food, for example), I recognize that in real nature (as distinct from eco-nirvana), fur trappers pay an important role in keeping predator populations in balance with their prey.

  10. Mike Devx says

    >> All in all, though, the whole conversation was interesting because it showed me how easy it is to convince children that violent attacks and property destruction, because they are effective, must be good >>

    It’s just as easy to convince that set of adults who, like children, haven’t spent much time reflecting upon their own vague philosophies. Oops, gotta run! The latest “Just Do It” Nike ad is on the TV!

  11. Mike Devx says

    I’d write more, but now the latest “Obey Your Thirst” Sprite ad is on the TV. And as you know, my thirst – for whatever desire I have that requires such quenching – must be obeyed. Immediately. With no thought.

  12. Ymarsakar says

    OK…now I’ve got to quit. I am really getting waaay too cynical, I know.,

    I think you need to seriously consider moving to a Southern state, man. Hey, if Europeans need to move to America, then certainly you should think about something similar.

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