…Is as follows:
- If you’re a hero on the cover of a vintage comic book: always acceptable, even desireable;
- When the Nazi is either physically assaulting you or is clearly prepating to physically assault you: always acceptable, even necessary;
And that’s as far as I’ve got.
Each of us is an innocent civilian in the war between our Emotional and Intellectual selves. The Emotional self says “It would feel so good if we did this…” while the Intellectual self responds “Yes, but hang on: what if…”
Intellectual Self is also the party that keeps telling you “Don’t even bother writing that song. You’re not a songwriter. It’ll come out horrible.” Emotional Self says “Do it anyway. It’ll be fun. Who cares if it’s a productive use of your time?” So it’s not as if there’s a Good Guy and a Bad Guy here.
It would feel so good to straight-out sucker punch someone who’s spouting off about the superiority of the White race, and what a cool guy Hitler was, and how all of society’s problems are due to [ethnic group] because of [bull**** reason]. We’ve seen that happen on video now and even that feels awesome. With the added advantage of no need to ice down your knuckles afterward!
That said: it is the position of the editorial board of this blog that we are commanded not to inflict harm upon another individual except in self-defense and in the defense of others.
But Intellect is a cagey bastard and sometimes it tries to help Emotion out. “Ah! But what about people spouting off about genocide? What about the polite, well-mannered, well groomed Nazis who might be influencing hundreds of thousands of people?”
Intellect raises an interesting point.
Still, we are commanded not to inflict harm upon another individual except in self-defense and in the defense of others.
I guarantee you that the person who sucker-punched that Nazi on TV didn’t do it after working through the decision rationally. He wanted to punch that guy, that guy was right there, so he punched that guy.
This part is crucial: he punched a stranger because he wanted that stranger to feel pain, and to feel powerless in that moment. He wasn’t doing it to Effect Social Change, or Deliver A Powerful Statement To Those In Power, or whatever. He wasn’t even trying to change the Nazi’s mind about anything. He was reacting emotionally. And thus, selfishly. This is no soldier riding at the gates of dawn, speaking truth to power with a steady and unflinching voice.
If you’re going to risk going to jail, do it in a way that will have an actual impact: dress in Business Casual, enter a Senator’s office during regular hours, and refuse to leave until you’re heard. Block a bulldozer with twenty or a hundred of your friends. Keep tweeting out statistics about global warming from your government account even though the President has directly ordered you not to.
I enjoyed that video. I want citizens to have the personal freedom to do that (and then face the consequences) but I don’t want society to give them the moral authority. The rationalization just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. “I committed [act of violence] against this person because this person said [objectionable thing].” I absolutely can’t condone that. And I don’t want us to become a society that designates portions of our group to be subject to free assault.
I would add an Item 2.1 to the above Position Statement:
“Sometimes, a personal verbal assault is the equivalent of a personal physical assault, and merits an equivalent response.”
But that’s exceedingly rare, and thus a mere distraction from the editorial board’s main position:
“We can’t be a society where it’s considered OK to go around punching people.”
Spoken by a man who knows, with age and humility, that he’s been very punchable on many occasions.
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