Reader Aaron Paschall was on a roll today, and his two-part comment on the thread regarding a woman’s lament about the sexual harassment she faces every day constitutes one of the best and most eloquent Comments of the Day Ethics Alarms has ever recognized with the honor. Here is Aaron’s perspective on the post “And The Solution To This Phenomenon Is Simply Ethics: Why Is That So Hard?”:
“Certainly it’s a sad state of affairs when a woman (or man) has to keep to the well-lit areas in order to avoid the dangers lurking in the dark. If Emily’s post is a lamentation that it would be wonderful if people needn’t fear the darkness, then I agree wholeheartedly. If Emily’s post is intended as a screed about how unfair it is that she can’t go walking down dark alleys as she would like because of all the nasty, brutish men lurking in the shadows, I can only laugh and say that I can’t walk down those alleys, either. Nor would I wish to, because I’m wiser than that.
“The old rules of gentility and civility weren’t perfect at eradicating boorish behavior, no. But they were a line of defence against it, and when we abandoned that line, boorish behavior advanced. Before that, chivalry and personal honor were similar lines. Religion and moral codes also played an important role. No, not every man was Gawain – in fact, none could be; he was designed to be an impossible ideal – but you knew where you were with the man who held him as a role model; who wanted to be like him. When society belittles Jesus, Galahad, and Washington – replacing them with the likes of Sheen, Sinatra, and Clinton – society doesn’t get to complain when people actually behave like the people they’ve been told to emulate.
“There is no golden age. Certain men have always behaved abominably towards women. Others have always held them up as treasures to be revered. Some men allow fame, money, or rank to be license to do as they wish. Others are famous, rich, or powerful, and retain the compassion and humility that makes them shine. The difference is that more and more these days, the old beacons of light seem to be torn down, and no new ones are replacing them. Washington? Positively Machiavellian. Jefferson? Slave owner, you know. Galahad – don’t you know that knights were little better than the thugs they organized against? Jesus – are you honestly insinuating that He is treated with respect in some way these days? Individuals may – society does NOT.
“There’s a fellow I know. Played Pickering in “My Fair Lady.” The amazing thing is, he’s exactly like that in real life.* Everyone who knows him, when we discover someone else who’s had the pleasure of meeting him, all say the same thing: “What a gentleman he is – and you can tell he really means, it, too!” Sad thing is, we can appreciate it on an individual scale – he’s our Pickering – while on the grand scale, we all admit that society as a whole casts him firmly as Don Quixote these days. Quaintly adhering to a charming code of ethics and behavior that the rest of us have outgrown the need for. And I mourn the beauty that has left the world because of that fact.
“If we hope to push against the darkness of man’s all-too-human inhumanity towards man, we need to erect MORE lighthouses. Tearing down the ones we have as ineffective, or archaic, or even secretly evil and manipulative can ONLY strengthen the darkness.”
* In “My Fair Lady,” the musical version of Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” Eliza Doolittle rebuffs her mentor Henry Higgins for treating her so rudely. She points to his friend and colleague, Col. Pickering, as a true gentleman. “He treats a flower girl as if she was a duchess,” she says. Higgins relies, “And I treat a duchess as if she was a flower girl!”