Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Stop the Inanity

I am saddened to see purported conservatives dropping like flies before the morally anaesthetic cliche that the Blacksburg massacre represents "the incomprehensibility of evil." I have laid out the reasons why this is flatly contradictory to the conservative mindset in a prior post, and I don't want to belabour the argument in the absence of counterargument, but I feel sickly compelled to compile the moral inanities from conservative opinion-makers:

The premiere offender, of course, is the President, who dipped a toe into moral self-deception with his by-and-large unremarkable message of condolence. One could charitably make the argument that rather than merely saying "It's impossible to make sense of such violence and suffering," he meant to say something more along the lines of "it's impossible to make human sense of such violence and suffering under the gaze of our infinitely just and loving God." One might have said "it's impossible to believe the killer acted sensibly in meting out such violence and suffering. But the problem with such compromise statements as it seems were hammered out for him by his speechmakers is to wind up saying something flatly false and patronising to an auditorium full of mourners. There is nothing easier to make sense of than human cruelty and the will to dominate; pretending it doesn't exist within us all doesn't help anyone. Indeed it actively makes recurrences of such atrocities more likely by increasing the blinding moral smog that such feigned ignorance and self-deception generate.

National Review actually made the trope in the headline of their symposium of moral analysis of the massacre, although the essays themselves were mercifully free from such moral self-exoneration, and spoke quite strongly to the need to confront the reality of evil unflinchingly. But this was depressingly balanced at the same time by Nancy French's morally naive navel-gazing. John O'Sullivan likewise pleads ignorance, although his essay works all the way around the issue of evil; he cannot bring himself personally to own murderous evil, which he attempts to brand as "radical evil," making it somehow categorically different from any garden variety evil he might admit to harbouring within himself.

Tucker Carlson, unsurprisingly, was 100% on board the move to declare evil something he couldn't be expected to analyse. It is true that evil subsists only as the negation of the good, and therefore right reason precludes willful evil, but to declare that right reason has nothing to say about its negation is to declare right reason powerless before evil. Evil is therefore rationally unaccountable in its particular manifested forms, but to pretend that all knowledge is rational is to subordinate the totality of the soul merely to one of its more useful faculties. Reason cannot account for itself rationally; to declare fundamental moral axioms out of bounds for analysis due to their prerational origin is a shortcut to the most grinding utilitarianism--which, come to think about it, seems to be pretty much where Tucker Carlson spends most of his time these days between tango lessons.

Weekly Standard has yet to step in this canard, and most theocon writers and bloggers have likewise; let's hope that one of them will step up to the plate and make clear for their readers the reasons why understanding evil's place in the scheme of things is essential to any plan to promote the good, and that to deny evil's susceptibility to rightly guided reason, perverse and irrational as evil's manifestations may be, is to empower evil to routine triumph over a willfully naive intellect almost as surely as would be the outright denial of the concept of evil.

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