Friday, October 28, 2011

Collective Guilt Pt. 3

Continuing from where we left off with we now ask ourselves a question.  Supposing that the actions between two or more people effect each other as stated in the pornography example, why then is this interaction not limited to the participants involved? 

To answer this we can turn to the pornography example yet again.  We see in this case that the producer of pornography intends for his "product" to be seen by as many an possible.  The message that some people can be exploited for pleasure is to be mass distributed.  Likewise the consumer that buys the product agrees with the proposition.  The wider the audience, the more of those who buy into the notion that exploiting people in certain contexts is acceptable.

Once this principle seeps into enough consumers and producers it becomes part of the common culture.  The idea that exploiting people for pleasure becomes acceptable for a significant portion of the population.  The dignity of the human person in societal view is now compromised for a portion of the population. 

Furthermore the proposition of exploitation rests on shaky ground.  Why is it only acceptable in certain contexts?  What makes sensual pleasure the only purview?  Why is "consent" the criterion?  Why not in another capacity for exploitation, such as an employer working his employees to death for little wages?  The employees "consent" to the arrangement via their employment agreements.  Is this not analogous?

Our concepts and societal "values" bleed into other sections of public and private life.  What principles we espouse in private often make their presence felt in the public sphere.  Likewise, public policies have a variety of effects on the private life of individuals.  As such our actions, both private and public, help or hurt society as a whole as well as those closest to us.

Because of these ideas it is possible for a society to collectively "sin."  As individuals we do wrong, which in turn causes harm to society via direct actions as well as the bad principles we espouse to society either direct means or through actions public and private.  Society in turn accepts these principles which leads to sin at a societal level. 

But what about those who resist the evil in society?  Those who would reject pornography and the evil principles that it rests on?  Surely they are not punished for the actions of others?  This we will cover in the next post.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Collective guilt pt. 2

In order to understand collective guilt we must first have a proper understanding of how our actions affect ourselves and others. Without this knowledge we will not understand how the actions of others can affect us and those around us. In order to do this we must dispense with the notion of a total separation of actions between what we call "public" and "private".

Our last post on the subject considered that a human being is complete only when both the notion of the individual and the notion of of a community are realized. That is, the human is at the full potential only when he is both recognized as an individual and as a member of a community. To emphasize one at the expense of the other is to damage both.

Because of this notion of connectivity between the two spheres of human nature we can now explore the notion of how an action in one sphere affects how the human interacts in the other sphere. That is, every action in either the public or private sphere will affect the human in the other aspect of his nature.

Consider the notion of pornography. It is argued that even if there is something wrong with the viewing of such images that it is a "private" matter, and thus off limits in the public realm. This idea has embedded in it the idea that a clean separation of "private" and "public" actions, that the viewing pornography is entirely a private affair.

But upon closer examination we see that the participant in pornography, the viewer in this case, is viewing pictures of another as a means of pleasure. In private the viewer is cultivating a habit of using another human being for their own pleasure. This in turn impairs the viewer's ability to recognize the other as worthy of respect that a human being is due.

Now let us shift focus to the producer of pornography. The producer, either the "actors" or those who produce and market such material, adhere to the notion that it is acceptable to allow oneself two be exploited by another. This also impairs the ability of the participants to treat all human beings with the respect that is due to all human beings.

In the above example we see that the viewer's ability to treat all humans not as objects but as people is compromised. Likewise the producers are also compromised. The private action of viewing compromises the viewer, which leads to more production of such exploitative material. Likewise the public production of such material compromises both the producers and the customers.

But now we face another question. If this holds how does this affect people beyond the participants? How do their actions affect society as a whole? This we will examine next.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Collective guilt Pt. 1

One of the common attempts of atheists to discredit Christianity is to paint God as a genocidal dictator.  Using texts from the Old Testament they point to God's commandments to exterminate the Canaanites.  This they argue proves that the God of the Bible is a genocidal maniac.

There are plenty of issues that arise from this argument that the atheist has to answer for.  The notion of God taking life vs. humans taking life is but one.  Taking the Scriptural text without other texts that suggest a more complicated picture is another.  Indeed there is so much to go into that it only proves that when you have a little knowledge you can make great mistakes.

But the purpose of this post is not to counter the point. Rather I would like to focus on the notion of collective guilt.  That is, there is a concept that a society can be judged as a corporate body. 

This notion makes me uncomfortable to some degree.  I suspect it is my American heritage that gets in the way.  The radical individualism that plagues the mind of the American has a tendency to isolate a human being as only an individual.   

But human beings are connected to each other.  We form societies.  Born into families, we humans interact with other humans as a regular part of day to day life.  It is as natural as breathing.  In short, the notion of human connectivity is as important as the notion of the individual.  It is only in community that the human being finds what being human is.

Now because of this notion of community with others as a natural extension of ourselves we find that our actions can affect others.  A kind or harsh word has a "positive" or "negative" effect on others.  Likewise, the actions of others can help or hurt the individual.   We are connected.  And in this connection our actions affect others and thus the community. 

But are actions such as those listed above divided cleanly into actions of the individual and actions in the community?  Is it only when I help or hurt another that the action in question is one in the community or "public" realm?  Likewise, are actions that do not involve another person individual or "private" actions?  While such actions can be classified with those categories it is not true that such actions are completely separate. 

But how can this be?  And what does this have to do with collective guilt?  These are good questions but I am out of time for right now.  Please bear with me as I will endeavor to answer them in the next post.