This coming year is an election year, when some of us will vote to take things that don’t belong to us – or have things done to other people that would get us locked up if we tried to do them ourselves.
My New Year’s Wish, therefore, is that people give thought to what they’re voting for – what it really means – and if it’s something they’d be uneasy doing on their own, that they not expect other people to do for them. Or, if they don’t feel uneasy, that they at least man up and be open about taking things that don’t belong to them and bullying other people to make them do what they want (and don’t want) them to do.
I wish for clear thinking – and honesty, at least insofar as the spoken and written word.
If I take your stuff without your permission or against your will – whether it’s your money or some other piece of property – it’s theft. Not “taxation.” Not some other thing that sounds civilized. The test is simple: Is it yours? Did you make it? Did you earn it? Did you buy it? Was it freely given to you? If it was any of those things, then it is yours – and by logical extension can’t belong to anyone else. And if it does not belong to anyone else, then no one else has the right to take it from you.
If they do, it is theft.
The nature of the act doesn’t change if you get someone else to do the thieving for you, or by calling it some other thing. In that case, all that changes is the way you look at it, what you tell yourself. Much in the same way that some men think it is not possible to rape one’s wife. But rape is rape – just as theft is theft.
Which brings up the issue of consent.
Either you’ve got it – or you haven’t. There is no middle ground, no such thing as “implied” consent. A woman consents to be married; she does not “implicitly” consent to rape.
How is it possible to consent – implied or otherwise – to a contract one has never even been formally presented, let alone signed?
A couple hundred years ago, a handful of men got together and decided on a contract that we’re all supposedly bound by today. How does that work, exactly? It doesn’t hold up to critical examination – to dissection with the tools of precise language, exactly applied, Which is precisely why it is treated with evasive generalities quickly mentioned and then passed over, such as “the people” and the “common good.” Who – and what – are these things, exactly? To ask those questions is to answer them.
And the answers are not much wanted.
The other way – evasion, euphemism, don’t look too closely at the process of sausage-making – is easier. Things “get done.” Well, things get done that some people want done. Using other people’s resources to get them done. This is what actually happens when “the people” act for the “common good.” But the unexamined generalities make it seem ok. Which is why they are so necessary to the success of the operation.
The ordinary, otherwise decent person would be ashamed of himself if he took his neighbors’ stuff – or fingered a pistol while “asking” him to do something (or not do something) he’d otherwise probably prefer not to do (or would like to be left in peace to do). So much easier on the conscience to pull a lever in a quiet voting booth and then not think about it too much. Which is why it’s absolutely essential that everyone be given the opportunity, at least, to vote. It is an act of secular transubstantiation; something despicable (when done by the individual) miraculously becomes legitimate when done by the mob. How this works, exactly, is as mysterious a process as the changing of wine to blood and crackers to flesh. But both acts have a thing in common: predation, consumption… cannibalism.
At least the Host was (apparently) willing.
A lesson, there.
Or rather, a moral.
One we are taught as children but learn to forget as adults.
Cooperation is good. Coercion is bad. Talk, discuss. Don’t hit – or threaten to.
If another has some thing you’d like to have yourself, perhaps ask to borrow it. Or buy it. But never take it.
Most schools have a “zero tolerance” policy for violence. Why not emulate this idea and apply it to the adult world? If it’s wrong for kids to act out violently then how can it be all right for adults to do so? Either our morality is situational and arbitrary – or our thinking is.
If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us – the majority who are decent people at heart – intuitively know the answer; that the morality we implicitly accept and which guides our actions in our individual lives isn’t situational or arbitrary. If this were not so, why vote? Why the need to use euphemisms? Why, in other words, be ashamed? Why not just take what we want? The fact that most of us don’t – even though we could – should tell us all we need to know. If only we’d think about it some more. If only we’d be a bit more consciously precise about the words we choose to use.
And that’s my wish for the New Year.
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