Saturday, April 21, 2012

Respectability and Passion

Respectability and Passion
P. Schultz
April 21, 2012

Here is an exchange I had with a friend on Facebook relating to the comments of a former student who expressed support for the mass murderer in Norway, which of course created a scandal at Assumption College.

Peter Schultz: Hey, I finally figured out Kevin Forts' problem: He hasn't learned yet how to dress up his rage in academic or professional clothes. You know: Write a book entitled "The Clash of Civilizations," or one entitled "The West and the Rest", or disguise your death and destruction as "a war on terror" fought with the latest technology [like drones] that kill the innocent in far away places and then compensate the victims when the killings are discovered - along with calling the deaths "collateral damage." You could even disguise your policies as "game theory," as was done in Nam - and then get a Ph.D. using such a theory to justify the slaughter.

Friend: “Really, Peter? Reading books like "The Clash of Civilizations" or "The West and the Rest" inevitable leads students to support the killing of 77 innocent lives? Really?”

(a) Did I say "inevitably?" Of course not because I don't think that. The argument was a more subtle one: Academics and experts/professionals are able to disguise their rage/anger behind a curtain of respectability; and, in some cases, they may not even be aware themselves of their underlying passions and how those passions influence their arguments. Aristotle wrote: "Thought moves nothing." He didn't say that about the passions. (b) I am not interested in "scoring points" against the likes of Mahoney/Dobski and the books they assign. What is interesting to me is that when an event happens like Forts' interview, we talk about it as if it arose all on its own, "out of the blue". Hence, Forts is characterized as "crazy." [He isn't or at least wasn't when he was in my classes. He made all the "right" arguments, the politically correct arguments from a neo-con. viewpoint and little else.] But to me these events occur in a particular context. Everyone seems to want to run away from that context, to ignore it and, hence, demonize Kevin. It is all-too-common and self-serving, but it has important political/social consequences. To me, it is unrealistic and blinds us to our situation.

And as far as taking the lives of the innocent, think of how easy it is to do that when it is conceived as an act of "counterinsurgency," which is a "theory" of warfare experts have developed that justifies death and destruction. Also, when taking the lives of innocent people is called "collateral damage," it is easier to accept these deaths and not see the passions underlying these acts. Or, more in line with your thinking, think how much easier it is to "terminate a pregnancy" than to commit infanticide.

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