Friday, June 30, 2023

The Road to Savagery


The Road to Savagery

Peter Schultz


            The road to savagery passes through virtue. Witness: Dick Cheney claimed that after the 9/11 attacks the US and its elites would have to “go to the dark side,” that is, would have to embrace savagery in order to combat Islamic fundamentalists. Implicitly, Cheney claimed such actions were indications of America’s virtue; that is, that being a virtuous nation required that the US act savagely.


            There’s actually nothing unique or even odd here because savagery – homicides and massacres – is often thought of as virtuous. And Cheney was, hence, quite proud of his embrace of savagery and tried to shame those who criticized his embrace of “the dark side” as “un-American.” And, generally, Americans seemed to be proud of the savagery that characterized the response to the 9/11 attacks, drawing fortitude from their commitment to such actions. Because Americans see themselves as virtuous, they are drawn toward savagery, as is Cheney.


            So then, questions arise: What exactly is virtue? That is, if virtue leads to savagery, what is it? If the virtuous are capable of, even drawn to savagery, are they genuinely virtuous at all? Or is virtue just a façade, a false front, behind which hides “inhuman cruelty?” And does inhuman cruelty – and not virtue – account for whatever political greatness exists in the world? Doesn’t the American experience, insofar as its greatness depended upon a savage slavery, suggest that this is so? It would seem so. So, be careful before wishing for political greatness – e.g., by creating “new world orders” or eradicating evil in the world as both George Bushes advocated – as such greatness comes at a very high price.

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