Posts Tagged ‘omission’

A Blame Game

Sunday, 22 January 2017

I have previously explored the logical absurdity of insisting that those who don't vote for one of the two foremost candidates in an election are effectively voting for the other of these two candidates. That analysis could easily be generalized to include ballot measures; where abstaining from voting has sometimes been claimed to be the same as opposing a measure, and sometimes been claimed to be the same as supporting the measure.

The primary purpose of claims of these forms is to pressure someone into voting for a candidate whom — or measure which — the potential voter finds unappealing. We especially see these claims when there are actual candidates, or formulated ballot measures. But we also see that purpose at play when an election has been held and candidates and proposal for the next election are not yet identified. Some of those declaring You are now to blame for X because you did not vote for Y! are hoping to motivate the audience to tolerate whatever is demanded by the claimant's faction in that next election. An alternative would be to promise to offer something better than Y in that next election; but they are engaged in brinksmanship, threatening to take the community off a cliff if a plurality don't agree to their demands.

Other motivations for such claims in the wake of an election are simple ventilation and blame-shifting. It is frustrating to lose an election, and a blow to the ego to acknowledge that one's own faction may be largely responsible for that loss.[1]

There's another, unrecognized motivation for these claims. Although there is a very great logical distance between refusing to support one of the two major political tribes and thinking as do members of the other major tribe, it is easy enough for tribal members to disregard that distinction almost perfectly. Thus, these absurd claims that refusal to support Y is operationally the same thing as supporting X implicitly become part of a more general psychological device of treating politics as all falling along a left-right spectrum, and thereby avoiding any challenge to one's thought or behavior that cannot be dismissed from the left by pointing to the right or from the right by pointing to the left, and saying You guys are worse!, even if the challenger is not one of those guys. The challenge may even be spuriously taken as proof that, after all, the challenger were really a member of the other tribe, as he or she is not challenging them, and them alone.

[1] For example, James Henry (Jim) Webb could have beaten any of the Republican candidates for President in 2016, and it is at least plausible that Bernard (Bernie) Sanders could have beaten Donald J[oseph] Trump; but the Democratic Party chose its weakest or second-weakest candidate. (Martin Joseph O'Malley might have been a still worse choice, as his mythology of Baltimore collapsed in the face of the police murder of Freddie Carlos Gray jr.)

Plight of the Bumble Bee

Friday, 14 August 2015

The subject of bumble bees arose yester-day, reminding me of the time, many years ago, that I bathed one.

Bumble bees burn a huge amount of energy; they're always rather close to starvation. Seeing a bumble bee, and thinking of their energy demands, I was curious as to how she would reäct to refined honey from a honey bee; so I got a spoonful of the stuff to offer to the bumble bee.

The bee and I did not handle it gracefully, and she fell into the honey. Now the bee was covered with sticky stuff, which was drying in the sun. She would probably starve to death, caked with food; and it would be my fault.

I carefully put the bee on a fence-post, and then got some cotton swabs, some tepid water, and a tooth-pick. I periodically dipped the tooth-pick into the honey (still in the spoon), and then daubed the bee's mouth-parts with it. In between, I swabbed her with the tepid water.

It took a long time to clean that bee. She endured the whole process rather well; I don't recall her ever acting agitated. Eventually, she was clean and dry and flew away.

Now, when I told this story in the 'blog that I once had on LiveJournal, someone responded as if my cleaning the bee were an act of charity; I didn't and don't see it as such. I had actively brought disaster upon a benign creature. If I had not subsequently cleaned that bee, then I would have been its killer; there is no counting me as its saviour for having set things right.

But I do enjoy the thought that, with all that honey in her, she were probably buzzed.

Moral Symmetries

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

It is recurringly claimed that omission and commission are morally equivalent, that failing to assist someone is as blameworthy as injuring that person. But, were that really the case then, by the same token, failing to injure someone would be as every bit as laudable as acting to prevent his or her injury by some other agency. The man who did not kill a random stranger upon whom he chanced would be as much the hero as one who rushed in to save one stranger from another.