Friday, December 14, 2012

What I Will Remember About Today

As I write this, today is Friday, December 14, 2012.  As with all days, many people (over six billion of them, now) did many things.  As with all days, most of the events that transpired are unremarkable.  Some of them were remarkable.  Most of them that were remarkable were positively remarkable.  A few of them that were remarkable were negatively remarkable.
     One of the latter was another mass shooting in which a criminal individual killed at least a score of people (many of them children) in Connecticut, USA.  Another of the latter was a mass knifing in which a criminal individual stabbed several people in China (reminding the perspicacious that the individual human choice involved is salient, not the weapon).
     Almost immediately after the former event was reported (it received far more attention in the United States, for several reasons), it was polticized (since politics is the only branch of philosophy that gets serious attention in this culture) by countless people of all political viewpoints (contrary to popular delusions, there are more than two, on every issue), from strident leftists (incorrectly identified as "liberals" in the demotic) demanding yet more "gun control," to strident conservatives (on stronger ground, this time) reminding that the existing gun laws (not to mention the law prohibiting murder) did not stop the twenty-year-old alleged assailant (who was too young to legally own guns), to some libertarians asserting that an innocent citizen is more likely to be killed by his own government (even in the United States), to other libertarians opining that is disingenuous for the President to castigate the murder of children when his drone strikes amount to the same thing, and to anarcho-capitalists  opining that no law works.  At least one Objectivist (possibly George Reisman) probably took the opportunity to ameliorate some of the epistemological myopia in the concept "gun control" and to point out that effective gun control would control the government's guns.  Some exhorted their friends to write to those who can "do something about the problem" (usually Congress, who can only make it worse).  Others simply objurgated those who would discuss politics at all in the wake of such news, proclaiming that it was inappropriate under the circumstances.  At least one "autism rights" organization assured people that most autistic people are not violent, and that autistic people are more likely to be crime victims than crime perpetrators.  (The alleged assailant was allegedly autistic.)  Still others cursed humanity, and yet more wondered rhetorically if the world was going insane.  Many of the above have good points to make.
     One I would like to make concerns one ostensibly unremarkable encounter I had today that is remarkable now, in the context of other events today.
     Since I received a long-awaited check in the mail today, I went to the bank to cash it.
     When I arrived at the teller's window, I dropped my pen at some point in the transaction.  (As a writer--which innumerable people remind me I am, from total strangers to the lead singer/lyricist of a certain underrated, pro-reason ska band, who is not a stranger--it helps to carry a pen at all times.)  It landed close to me.  Since I did not need it immediately, and it was not far, I decided that retrieving it was not an imminent affair, but one that could wait.
     Evidently, as is usually the case, a stranger near me had a different view than mine (or just decided to help).  She walked a much farther distance than I thought was necessary, considering the fact that I was standing right next to my pen.  I noticed that she was determined to help me.
     "Oh, that's not necessary.  I've got it," I assured her.
     "I've got it," she reassured me.  She picked up my pen and gave it to me.
     "Thank you," I said.
     This event struck me as remarkable in the context of the rotten news I had just heard from Connecticut.  Upon reflection, it strikes me as more remarkable.
     We live in dark times (in which bad philosophic ideas, for at least a century, have both increased the amount of atrocities like those that occurred today and disarmed--intellectually and otherwise--their innocent victims), but dark times and bad ideas do not change metaphysics or "human nature."  Virtually all human beings have much more in common with my anonymous interlocutor at the bank.  Very few of them are essentially like the perpetrators of today's atrocities.  (This may change if those bad ideas--and their consequences--are not corrected and reversed.  But it is still the case.)
     For centuries, philosophy (the driving force of all cultures) and most of its spokesmen, religious and secular (from Pope Innocent III to Augustine to Immanuel Kant on down--or--to paraphrase a rare good philosopher--properly speaking, on up) have propagated the view that human beings are bad.  Even the best and most philosophical of the Endarkenment's commentators, religious (P.J. O'Rourke) and secular (George Carlin), regurgitate similar views.
     They're all wrong.
     Most of us did not get killed (or even attacked) today.  Most of us did not kill (or attack) anyone else today.  And, while most people today are wrong about almost everything (thanks to generations of bad philosophy, bad culture, and bad education), most people today are still good.
     I will remember two important things today, and neither is a mass killing.

1. The human race is good.  (Even when most of its ideas are not.  Aberrations, from Kant to Richard Speck to whoever wrote "Killing in the Name Of," do not matter in this context.  And people can disagree with one another--as I do with virtually everybody, almost certainly including my friendly, helpful bank companion--and live in a civilized manner.  For now, anyway.)

2. That is due to a more fundamental verity.  Not even generations of bad ideas, bad culture, and bad education can fundamentally change reality (including the fact--the metaphysical law of nature--that the human race is good).


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