This is a record for Ethics Alarms; johnburger 2013’s Comment of the Day on the paintball shooting ethics quiz is being honored before it has gotten out of moderation. (Too many links will do that.) It’s also jumping ahead of several other COTD’s on the runway, and the reason is—in addition to the fact that I’ve been feeling lousy recently and catching up requires more time and energy than I’ve had left after trying to keep up with paying work and the daily personal catastrophes—that I find the story of the paintball siege and resulting death raises fascinating and perplexing issues that transcend easy answers in ethics and law.
Some will find jb2013’s (that’s my nickname for him; I hope it’s not presumptuous of me) post provocative. He was reacting to commenter Alizia’s speculation that such episodes are inevitably populated by citizens who are not, shall we say, the sharpest knives in the drawer. It is a topic that Americans are not supposed to talk about of think about: democracy means letting a lot of really, really, dumb, ignorant people having power over your life and influence over your culture and society. As in the short story : “The March of the Morons,” it is the duty of the minority that is not semi-literate, crude, ruled by passions and emotions and lacking the critical thinking and problem solving skills of my Jack Russell Terrier to keep the rest from hurting themselves and lousing up the country beyond repair, but to do so without infringing on their rights and liberty. In today’s dangerously polarized public, both sides regard the other as over-stocked with dolts, and both are, sadly, correct. A majority of Republicans think Barack Obama is a Muslim. A majority of Democrats think we have just 12 years to address climate change or we are all doomed. A majority of both believe in ghosts.Most can’t name ten Presidents, or identify half of the Bill of Rights, or tell you the significance of today and tomorrow to world history. No, I don’t think such people are qualified to vote, and the fewer of them who do, the better off we are. Sill, the Founders articulated principles that ensure them the right, and we have to respect that and do the best we can, relying on the “wisdom of crowds,” the phenomenon, unknown to George, James, Ben, Tom and the rest, that seems to make group decisions wiser that the composition of the groups would predict.
Contrary to all the Democratic Presidential candidates, Michelle Obama and others who maintain that America was never great, this has worked out rather well so far.
Watching cable TV is both educational and terrifying—just binge on true crime shows and listen to the interviews with family members and friends of the victims and perps. Observe the cretinous plots and actions of the adulterers, sociopaths, psychopaths, and petty thieves, thugs, pugs, mugs and Methodists. I literally don’t know people like these, and never have; I’ve never had a relationship of any kind with someone who regularly uses “ain’t no..,” or who mixes up statue and statute. That’s my bubble: I have to constantly remind myself that my mini-world is the outlier, and my responsibilities lie in the real one.
Here is johnburger2013’s comment on Ethics Quiz: The Paintball Attack:
You raise an interesting point. I live in Houston – where it is frickin’ hot and humid (PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!!!) – and I saw this story on the news. It happened in South Houston. A little bit about South Houston: Stay the hell out of there. At all costs. It is as close to a Hell Hole as one can get without actually being in a Hell Hole. It is an unincorporated area of Harris County, Texas, at the southern edge of the City of Houston. It is politically independent of the City of Houston and is a major petrochemical center in the region, with atmospherics to show for it. It is about 78% Hispanic, where Spanish is the primary language spoken. The median income is $42,615 (as of 2016). It is above the state and national averages in property and violent crimes.* Gang activity is a problem. Just for grins, read through this report from the Texas Department of Public Safety from 2018 to see what gangs operate in here. It’s a fun read.
I don’t know how local news is reported in other cities, but if Houston is any guide, it is no wonder we can’t reason ourselves out of a wet paper bag.** The local reporters interviewed the “victim’s” relatives and they are blood-boilingly stupid/ignorant. Without fail, the victim,and in most cases the perpetrator, is a great person, with a bright future (a future rap or Tejano star in the making), usually smiling in Sunday bests, and never a brain-dead Neanderthal who can’t get out of his/her own way. Generally, the victim’s family members ask that universal question, with tears a-flowin’: “Why did they have to shoot him? He was a good person. He only meant to fight that kid. There was no reason for that kid’s father to shoot him.We just want justice for ______.” When you read or hear “justice” think revenge or payback.
Now, the fellow who shot the would-be-paint-baller is shown in video from the street. He is not interviewed for the nightly news but his driver’s license picture gives us a feel for the type of person he is, as we are shown video of his home with the bicycles and jacked up cars in the driveway. It is very subtle.
**Ed. Note: Local news here is maddeningly awful. Usually, the nightly anchor is some fetching lass or hunk, who stands just so to highlight her/his figure, arming half cocked to show bulging biceps and toned forearms, while engaging the viewer in the story. The stories are usually pitched with some “click bait” type lede line or sensational declaration, and the anchor then turns to the Big Screen TV screen with the reporter on the scene who will give us the story, not without some kind of pitch to reporter: “Clint, tell us what is happening.” Clint will then acknowledge the introduction with something like “that’s right, Dave, authorities tell us . . . ” Then, Clint will finish his report/update in about 60 seconds, looking severe or stern, with pass back to the studio, “. . . that’s what we have for now. Back to you, Dave.” Dave, then, will thank Clint for that update, pause a few seconds so that we can clear our heads, whereupon Dave will give us a 3 minute report on some heart-warming story of a lady and her squirrel. Dave, then, will turn to Mia and ask her to lede us into the weather, where Mia will talk breathlessly about the heat with the weather person for a few moments and the weather person will take it from there with cool graphics and maps and stuff. Commercial break, three more short stories and SPORTS, SPORTS and more SPORTS.