Monday, May 14, 2012

Confusing passion with importance

The death penalty debate does not interest me.  Unlike other issues, I have a difficult time mustering any energy for the issue beyond linking the Church's teaching on the subject (which I'm too lazy to do, hence my point).

Intellectually I recognize what is at stake (human lives) and as such understand the importance of the topic.  From a logical standpoint, the death penalty is more important than say, what tax hikes are coming down the pike.

Passion is a good thing.  It is what motivates us to do what we do regarding such topics.  Were it not for those who are passionate about death penalty reform, we would not be aware of the horrible abuse that exists in our current judicial system with regard to capital punishment.

The danger of passion lies in the conflation of our passion for an issue with the importance of an issue.  That I may not feel passionate about the death penalty does not make it less important.  Likewise, that I may be passionate about the subject of abortion does not automatically mean that abortion is the singular issue in political debate.

What we see in our modern political discourse (if one can call it that without straining credulity) is that we see this conflation of passion and importance as a matter of routine.  The issue that one is passionate about is the one that matters.  If I don't feel it, it isn't important.

In its worst form this leads to an undermining of actual truth, which is constructed in a hierarchy.  There are truths and issues more important than others. The right to life, for example, is the first fundamental right by which all other rights rise or fall.

We must be careful that passion does not blind us to this reality.  We cannot hope to further the cause of our particular passion at the expense of truth.  This is especially true of fundamental truths that underlie the issue we are passionate about.  The cause of charity for the poor is undermined when the right to life is not respected and protected for example.

Ultimately this points to the notion of a moral philosophy.  In order to further a cause, the moral philosophy that lies underneath that cause must be developed and consistently followed.  And until we rediscover a consistent moral ethic, our attempts to further the cause on issues with only hurt do damage to others and roadblock our own issues.

No comments: