Reflecting on one of the mini-essays (by essayist/novelist Natasha Staggin) today’s obnoxious Times feature, “Future Cringe/One day we’ll look back on this moment and wonder: What were we thinking?,” my favorite quirky blogger, Ann Althouse writes,
I love the big question, what are we doing now that we are going to be embarrassed/ashamed of in the future? I noticed this question when I was a child and heard things said about people in the past, as if those people were benighted and ridiculous. We are those people to people somewhere out there in the future. How can I avoid being looked at by them the way people today are looking at the people of the past?
One answer is to be more charitable to the people of the past. Realize that some day you’ll be in their position, and don’t you want those future people to be charitable toward you? Embarrassment is over-worried about. Maybe those people in the future are looking back at us and laughing about how prudish and uptight we were to think of them feeling embarrassed about us. That is, one day we’ll look back and be embarrassed that we were embarrassed.
Typical Ann: raising what she calls a “big question,” and almost immediately suggesting it isn’t so big after all, writing, “Embarrassment is over-worried about,” which is also an interesting sentence coming from a writer who is so often a language pedant.
As an ethicist who believes that human understanding of what is right and wrong constantly evolves and usually improves, my initial reaction to Ann’s question is, “What do you mean we?” I’ve been around a while, and I can honestly say that I’m not “embarrassed” by anything I once believed in, or any major reaction to the data life gave me. Individual deeds, words and moments, sure. I have plenty of past moments I wince to think about.
Stagg was talking about the Wuhan virus freak-out, so don’t look my way. I didn’t freak out, and I did my best to try to keep others from doing so, failing miserably. However, the pandemic is the kind of event one’s response should only be embarrassed about if one knew, or should have known, that one’s response was dishonest, cowardly, or destructive, or if one had a genuine choice and foolishly took the wrong one. The pandemic was a unique challenge, and we were, as Marty Baron ( Liev Schreiber) says in “Spotlight” when a Boston Globe staffer is admitting that he could have blown the whistle on the Catholic Diocese predator priest scandal sooner, just “stumbling around in the dark.”
Yes, I think Dr. Fauci should be embarrassed. Andrew Cuomo should be embarrassed. The New York Times should be embarrassed, and the health “experts” who endorsed the mass George Floyd demonstrations as an exception to their warnings about large gatherings should hide their heads under bags. But for the most part, I think the pandemic is a poor example for Ann’s question. Continue reading
This Comment of the Day by Tom P (who has been on a roll of late) is one of those “in case you missed it…” COTDs. Here he is on the ever-green topic of attacks on past conduct of others by those residing in the present, as raised in by the post, “More On Nichelle Nichols: Regarding Althouse’s Misguided Snark”…in case you missed it:
The thing about the past is that it is past. The past serves only two purposes. One role is to bring pleasure in the present as you remember past enjoyable episodes of your life. The second is as a guide toward future action. No matter how hard you try, the past cannot be changed or undone. Althouse’s protestations serve no purpose. Slavery has been abolished for a few years now and all slaves and slaveholders are dead. The original producers of Star Trek are dead or no longer in business. There are no living aggrieved parties nor remedies available to them if they were alive.
Continue reading →