Ready for an ethical week?
1. I am beginning to wonder if aimless protesting and demonstrating has become a fad. Here is one piece of evidence: over the weekend, dozens of New York City police officers held a rally in support of getting quarterback Colin Kaepernick a job in the National Football League. Among the demonstrators was Frank Serpico, made famous by Al Pacino’s portrayal (Do not watch that movie now, as it has aged horribly), who must be bored or something.
What possible good can this rally do, other than to serve as some kind of perverse virtue-signaling by police (“I support the guy who said that when I’m falsely accused of murder, I should lose my salary before there’s an investigation or a fair determination of what really happened! Love me!”)? If the rally is supposed to tell NFL teams who they should hire to play based on talent alone, no team in its right mind will or should pay attention. “Hey, a bunch of cops in Brooklyn think that Colin’s better than we think he is. What the hell: lets give him a few million bucks!” If the rally is mostly about his National Anthem-dissing stunt, all they are doing is guaranteeing that the borderline quarterback will stay unemployed. Kaepernick, by his own actions (and routinely inarticulate and simple-minded justification of them) irreversibly made linked his political stand to his football abilities. It’s like the dilemma Michael Sam created when he made a big deal about being openly gay. Was he being drafted because he was gay and the NFL didn’t want to appear bigoted, or because he was good enough to play? When he was cut, was it really because he was gay (Naturally Sam hinted it was) or because the team’s management thought it would have a better team on the field without him? The same was true of Tim Tebow: if a team cut him, it was suspected of hating God. Who needs a constant distraction like that?
If a protest can’t accomplish anything constructive, then it’s an unethical protest.
2. Popular culture in the Age of Trump is sending even more muddled and unethical messages that it used to. I’m trying to get though Marvel’s latest for Netflix, “The Defenders”, a series based on Marvel’s second-tier super-hero team that consisted of a rotating squad of hopeless mismatches, like Dr. Strange and the Submariner. It has been recast as a group of urban misfits (Bulletproof ghetto warrior Luke Cage, depressive and cynical strong girl Jessica Jones, blind super-nimble lawyer Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) and boring young tycoon Eastern master Iron Fist, whose real name I can’t remember. Yesterday i watched, Luke, easily the most likable of the four, berate Iron Fist because we was white, rich, “privileged,” and had the cruelty and audacity to regard a young black kid who was being paid to spray acid on multiple murder victims of a sinister criminal enterprise as a criminal himself. “He just needs a job,” explains the huge, indignant, racist, classist, bullet-proof black guy.
Oh, well, that’s all right then! (Pssst! Luke! Don’t hurt me, but it’s called “accessory after the fact.”)
3. This bleeds a bit into the upcoming Part 3 of the statute-toppling orgy saga, but the intensifying attendant rhetoric about “fighting” or “banishing” hate is facile and sinister in the extreme. James Murdoch, no relation to Daredevil but son of media mogul Rupert, sent out his own simpleminded screed blathering about how “there are no good Nazis” and how “the presence of hate in our society” was appalling. Personally, I hate other people who get to hate whatever they choose to telling me what I can hate, and that they get to decide what hate is acceptable and what hate isn’t. I suspect other citizens also hate this. I suspect that this exact species of hate was what motivated many of the non-white nationalists to march in Charlottesville against tearing down Lee’s statue.
Emotions are non-ethical considerations. What matters is how you channel your emotions; what you do matters in ethics, not what you wish you could do, or think about doing in your dark and bitter moments, or fantasize about doing, or even say you would like to do. An effort to “banish hate” is productive as long as it deals in persuasion, education, reason and modeling ethical values. When the effort crosses into coercion, indoctrination, grandstanding and condescension, the effort becomes hate-worthy itself. As with the civil rights movement’s tragic wrong turn toward trying to eliminate bias rather than focusing on promoting unbiased conduct, the anti-hate movement will only further polarize society. American don’t like being told what to think, or that what they think makes them lesser citizens or unworthy of their individual rights.
The anti-hate merchants are the ultimate hypocrites. They hate as vigorously as the worst of the haters they deplore. They just hate different things, ideas, and people.—you know, the right targets of hate, because they say so. They are masters of good hate.