Yes indeed, here we are! Axiometry! Looking at commonly used sayings, axioms, and bits of conventional wisdom to see if there really is any wisdom in them . . . or if they’re just full of wis.
. . .
Okay, that one was a bit of a stretch, I know.
Today’s subject is a relatively new one, or one that we hear incessantly, especially in the incessantly obnoxious world of politics. I am, of course, talking about the expression–the very idea–of being on the right side of history.
By nature, I am slow to anger and quick to forgive. This might make me a good Christian and a rather pleasant guy to be around, but in any kind of conflict or war I know I would be a liability–a good man but not good at being a man, as Jack Donovan would say.
By nature, I'm slow to anger and quick to forgive. This might make me a pleasant guy, but I'd be a liability in a war. I know that.
I don’t think this used to be the case here in the United States. Cynicism is a very un-American trait, but I think we as a nation could afford to be more open, honest, and trusting if there were higher levels of trust and more social cohesion. Now, for a variety of reasons, society is breaking down. We are witnessing it in real time.
Our national character is changing, becoming meaner and uglier. This isn't a good thing, but it might be necessary.
Paeans for unity are meaningless, because lots of the people who make them really want division, anger, and distrust. If there was actually unity, these people would be out of a job.
So is the only way to survive to be cynical? Distrusting?
I have a problem with this because this is not my nature. Both as an American and a Christian, I’d prefer to be decent and to treat others the way I would wish to be treated. However, given the hatred that I see and receive, I feel my basic outlook changing and I don’t necessarily like it.
With these thoughts bouncing around my head, I recently completed a two-day negotiation training course for work. In it, I had a little bit of an “Ah-ha!” moment when, in discussing game theory, I learned about Robert Axelrod‘s negotiation strategy.
First, let me offer my prayers for the dead and for the living. This is a monstrous act of barbarism and hate that must not be allowed to happen again. My thoughts are still too incoherent an rage-filled to write about it with any sense of perspective.
What I can write about is the reaction to it. Americans DO NOT LIKE IT when this happens because we are a good and decent people. Gay, straight, black, white–mass murder is WRONG and it is EVIL no matter who does it.
The reaction I take issue with isn’t even the so-called politicizing of this tragedy: Some things need to be politicized because the causes of it are political.
What gets on my nerves is many people’s insistence that laws could have stopped this. If only we had the right laws, the thinking goes, this never would have happened. Such laws, apparently, will also have the power to stop future terrorism and violence.
Laws are magic spells apparently!
This is amazing, since law school was the furthest thing imaginable from Hogwarts. They never taught us mystical incantations in law school.If there were magic classes, I must have missed them.
All the laws in the world aren’t going to work. Why? Simple:
Laws do nothing to change human nature.
Laws provide disincentives for law-abiding citizens not to break them. If you’re a criminal–you know, the kind of person who generally ignores society’s rules–why would a certain combination of words stop you?
Laws are useful after-the-fact mechanisms for punishing, and sometimes rehabilitating, the wrongdoer. As the theory goes, making an example out of lawbreakers will deter others from engaging in the bad act. There’s also the theory that society needs to see wrongdoers get punished in order to have faith that the state is looking out for its best interest.
But generally speaking, laws don’t solve problems–if there did, there’d be no drug addition in America, right?
What really changes people’s behavior are not laws, but culture.