Self-Policing

20 May 2010

I've written about the topic of self-policing elsewhere, earlier. But I've been thinking of writing about it here, and it arose in conversation to-day.

The term self-policing has multiple meanings, but it usually refers not simply to individuals regulating their own behavior, nor simply to any sort of regulation of own-behavior, but to members of a group acting to regulate how other members of that group treat outsiders. When, for example, one refers to members of a profession engaging in self-policing, one is typically speaking of them taking steps to protect clients against incompetence or dishonesty.

Lots of self-policing is not recognized as such. For example, when a state goes to war, those within the nation who attempt actively to impede the war are engaged in self-policing based on notions of right-and-wrong. Those who actively seek to compel support for the war are also engaged in self-policing, albeït based upon different notions of right-and-wrong.

The American civil rights movement succeeded exactly by persuading a sufficient number of white Americans to act to regulate the behavior of other white Americans; again, it was self-policing. Whites who did no more than insist that not all whites engaged in discrimination were not truly part of the problem, but they certainly weren't part of the solution, and they ought to have been.

And likewise for those in other groups who, instead of self-policing, will merely self-righteously insist that the problematic behavior from within their group is not universal to its members. They are not truly part of the problem, but they certainly aren't part of the solution, and they ought to be. Although a people may be not only technically but meaningfully civilized without self-policing, a society or culture that lacks self-policing is none-the-less less civilized than one with self-policing. And, while we are not entitled to forceably compel other people in-or-outside of our own culture to self-police, we are entitled to demand such in non-coërcive ways, and to look with contempt upon people or peoples who do not self-police.

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