Person or Principle? by Julie Pascal

Person or Principle?

by Julie Pascal


Fifteen or twenty years ago I was reading a science fiction novel and during the course of a conversation one character asked the other which they put first, if they put people first or principles first.  If I recall correctly the main character said that she put people before principles.

I remember this so clearly after all this time because I didn’t understand the question.  What was meant by “people?”  What was meant by “principles?”  It seemed obvious to me that you couldn’t separate the two things so I couldn’t figure out what the author was trying to get at.  In my mind it always came around to the same idea.  Principles were how you protected people.  I couldn’t picture a scenario in my mind that could be described as putting people first without relying on principles to make that possible.

So it stuck with me.  Over the years I’d reconsider the question in this or that context and discover that it still didn’t make sense.

Perhaps unfortunately, I had an epiphany a year or so ago.  I finally figured out what putting people before principles looks like.  And I noticed that it’s actually very common.  Not only is it common but it’s got a wide scope of expressions and consequences in our society.

The shortest explanation is that putting people before principles is picking sides.

Principles, being principles, are those things that apply equally to everyone.  “Equality” is a principle.  All men are equal under God.  All men are equal under the Law.  The Constitution protects everyone, not just some.  All have the right to worship and speak freely according to their own conscience, not just some.  Lying is wrong, no matter what you lie about.  Stealing is wrong, no matter who you steal from.

This passage from “A Man for All Seasons” is a discussion of “people vs. principle” that, although it doesn’t use the terms at all, catches the essence of it quite well.

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!


Consider that different people identify the “Devil” differently and we see that there is no end to those who would “Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil.”

In fact, there is no end to those who will argue that a good person must not “tolerate the intolerant.”

What does that mean?  For one example, there is an idea that has been part of our culture that our individual political life, who we vote for or why we vote for them or how our political involvement is expressed, these things ought to be apart from our social and economic involvement in our communities.  Everyone should have the right to their crack-pot notions and the right to be horribly wrong about politics, according to this principle.  More, there’s been the idea that even if you really hated the choices that someone else made, or the statements that someone else made, that you ought to defend their right to make them.  People didn’t always live up to it, but at least the principle was there to try to live up to.  This has been turned entirely on its head.  The reversal is more than simply not defending people who are wrong. It’s more than choosing to be neutral. It must be active opposition. That you must not tolerate the intolerant means this: If someone doesn’t pick the right side in their individual political life, you are morally obligated to be intolerant of their participation in the community.

By that I mean… their job, walking unharassed, purchasing items in a store…

Oh, this intolerance is almost certainly expressed as a positive rather than a negative.  If directed at you this will be about who must be protected from your awful speech, who is hurt by your hateful ideas, and losing your ability to make a living and pay your bills will be told as reasonable “consequences” for your horrible political expression.  Bad things must be opposed by good people.

This idea if applied as a principle equally to everyone would mean that in the past (and elsewhere in the world as I type) all the religious persecution of people with “bad” religions, all the persecution of those with “perverse” and “corrupting” sexual practices, any oppression by law or extra-legally by communities toward those of minority opinions or ethnicities, any horror that is done under the cover of protecting children or society as a whole, is justified.  All of it is justified.

The horrific nature of this obligation to oppress is seldom acknowledged because the sanctioned harassment in question is not considered a principle. It’s picking sides. (You ought to pick the right side.  How hard is that?) Since it’s about picking sides, when you point out to someone that different groups of people are committing the same oppression or injustice and for the exact same motivation you will be told that these are not “equivalent.”  You are guilty of a false equivalency. They aren’t equivalent because they can’t be equivalent. The people involved are different.  The people are different and the ideas are different.  Those being defended truly are “good” and those being punished truly are “bad”.   It doesn’t matter at all that those other people believed the same things when they did what they did.  They were wrong.  So it’s not equivalent.

At this point you should be able to see that the only thing that protects you at all is being lucky enough to have a majority of other people willing to defend your “rights”.  However, since “rights” are principles that would apply to everyone even the bad guys, it’s not your “rights” that are being defended, just YOU.  Ultimately, your only real protection lies in having convinced someone to choose to put YOU before principles. Today. Hopefully tomorrow.

It seems self-evident to me that shifting opinions protect one about as well as closing your eyes keeps others from seeing you.

Perhaps you can see how I always came around full circle and back to the fact that the only thing that does actually protect a “person” is a “principle.” But this equality of protection for everyone requires accepting that principles also protect the Devil and some people just seem unable to accept that.  I don’t know if that’s a personality thing, or if it’s a matter of failing to teach principles at all unless it’s to rail against how the principle is used to protect the Devil and should be destroyed.

“Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”


There are a number of ways that “putting people first” expresses itself in our society.  One of the most common and relatively simple ways is the various political dichotomies that we see.  It’s in every argument based on compassion.  It’s in weaponized empathy. It’s in claims that logic or facts are oppressive. It’s in the political rhetoric that says that calling for economically sustainable and sensible policies is the same as wanting babies to die.

I’m sure that many people can point out examples in our culture where we’re asked to choose picking sides over principles of equality.

This is why a principle that applies equally to everyone and would protect everyone, “all lives matter”, is considered hateful, and something based on no principle at all but on picking sides, “black lives matter,” is something all “good” people ought to support.

This is why authors who ought to know better by virtue of education and occupation outright call for the end to free speech, which has no value in their ideology beyond allowing bad people to say hurtful and damaging things.

Picking sides is how someone can rail against Christianity and support Islam without going bug nuts from a cognitive break.  There’s no conflict because there is no principle, only picking sides. The illogic involved is immaterial.  A parent doesn’t care about the illogic of favoring their own child when their own child isn’t the best, brightest, most accomplished and wonderful of all children.  They just do it.

So maybe it is a personality issue after all.  Maybe some people simply can’t turn off the part of their brain that wants to find principles, wants to figure out the larger network of truths that apply to everyone.  Maybe it’s personality that makes inequality and the abandonment of principles grate like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Maybe it’s the leftover howl of a small child when they think they figure it out and then life isn’t “fair.”  Except that some people think that “fair” means we all have the same rules, while other people just want life to be “fair” in their favor.


I’ve recently started to wonder if intersectionality is an attempt to design an overarching principle. (Feminism sort of tried when parts of it attempted, and failed, to rebrand as equality for everyone.)  Just the concept of intersectionality, the word itself, seems to be an attempt to bring it all into some semblance of a uniform ideology.  But beyond the terminology chosen it’s hard to see and I don’t blame anyone for thinking I’m nuts to suggest that what intersectionality is attempting is “principle.”  There’s a reason that we look at intersectionality and start talking about the oppression Olympics, after all.  There’s a reason why it was described by a young (very liberal) person I know as “an overwhelming manifesto where if you disagree with a single thing it proves that You Are Bad.”  Intersectionality might be an attempt at developing a principle but it can’t succeed.


Imagine having a Person over Principles world view that is so foundational and automatic that it’s transparent.  You can’t even imagine a different way of looking at the world.  If you read this essay to this point you won’t be disagreeing with the ideas I’ve presented because you’ve decided that I’m a delusional nincompoop spouting gibberish.  This is how foundational the assumptions are.  Now imagine, instead of just choosing sides and promoting your cause, you’ve decided to try to choose ALL sides and promote ALL causes.  Now instead of one person or one cause to put before others, you’ve got to juggle bunches of people and causes and decide their order.

Because “People First” isn’t a principle and it isn’t equality (since equality is a principle), it means you have no choice but figure out who gets put at the head of the line. Who deserves to go first?  Who deserves to go second?  Where does each person fit and each cause rank compared to others? Add to that the moral imperative to abandon principles of equal or civil treatment in order to oppose the “Devil” whomever the Devil may be?

What a mess.

“And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?”

Take heart, they may come for you last.


165 thoughts on “Person or Principle? by Julie Pascal

  1. “In fact, there is no end to those who will argue that a good person must not “tolerate the intolerant.”

    There does seem to be no end to mediocre minds pursuing idiotic tautologies these days. The Lefties (and the alt-Righties!) these days are acting like a bunch of spoiled brats that just got told they’re too old for Santa Claus.

    When faced with a question like “do you put people or principle first?” the answer is “I’ll decide when I get there.” Sometimes the principle needs a little leeway for a particular person, because everybody is different. Also, the basic notion of Freedom is that I’m the one deciding. I -have- principles, they don’t have me.

    But that seems to be too hard a thing for most of these so-called “philosophers” out there. They love their unalterable rules and inflexible principles. They never heard the story about the Oak and the willow. The oak stands strong under the snow until it finally breaks, while the willow bends and the snow falls off, letting it stand again.

    Having principles is good. Having principles and a brain is better.

    1. Having principles is good. Having principles and a brain is better.

      Precisely. I have known two people for whom “Never tell a lie.” is a rock-bound principle. Absolutely unbearable to be around.
      My principle is “Never tell a harmful (or even neutral) lie.” Newborn babies are ugly as sin to me (even my own – yes, I am a cis-male…). Never, ever, do I say that to a new parent.
      Lying by evasion is fine with me, too, in some circumstances. “Does this dress make me look fat?” “You look good in that, dear.” (Sigh, that hasn’t worked for quite a while, she’s on to me…)
      Which undoubtedly made me a horrible person to either of those two people – or would have if I had bothered to debate with them.

      1. At the Academy, we called it “tact”. “Lying” was right out. But a soft answer when your sponsor family serves something atrocious for Saturday night dinner, was considered a virtue.

        OTOH, “quibbling” was right out. That was the attempt to get out of responsibility for something by… well, quibbling.

        BTW, the right answer to that classic “Then the fight started…” question is to say, “No, love-of-my-life, that dress does not make you look fat.”

        1. There actually is no dress that will make the wife look “thin” – she just has that build. (Thank goodness – my ideals of feminine beauty do not include Twiggy.)

          Reminded me of a family story, though. One of my sister’s boyfriends was invited to holiday dinner. When asked how he like the meal, he said “I’ve never had gravy made with rice before.” Poor guy. (Fortunately, my family knew that Mom could not make gravy without some lumps, not in a million years. So they just cracked up. I know I was there, but I must have been at the age where I was just shoveling it in as fast as I could and keeping an eye on the mashed potato and gravy bowls to get seconds/thirds before the sisters got to them.)

      2. I used to try not to lie. Now I’m deaf.

        Significant Other: “Honey, does this make me look fat?”

        The Phantom: “Hmm?”

        Works awesome most of the time. For those really demanding social occasions, when nothing but the finest charm offensive will do, I stay home.

      3. A true complement that dodges the question is always in order! (Unless the dress is something you want them to wear aaaaaallll the time. I have one dress my husband said “looked nice.” I wear it a lot. 😀 )

    2. “There does seem to be no end to mediocre minds pursuing idiotic tautologies these days. ”

      The words “these days” are superfluous.

      1. True, but it seems worse than normal, don’t you think? Or is it just that they get more positive coverage these days?

        1. What’s happening these days is that an old order is breaking up. As an example from further back, the British Aristocracy embraced all kinds of foolishness as thier hold on oower slipped away. Which is why they now have such a reputation as chinless imbeciles.

    3. I think it’s less bending the principle, than applying the principle correctly.

      Like… Captain America. He’s for America, right? And yet, he told the American Gov’t to go jump in the lake, because they were violating the principles that make America…well, America.

      When someone is doing something wrong, which better expresses true love– to tell them everything they do is just fine, or to try to correct them?

    4. While I certainly believe your principles shouldn’t be rigid (unless they are defined in excurciating detail to make up for every circumstance), I do think that holding to a strong principle is a good idea. Because we’re imperfect.

      We’ll break those principles from time to time for whatever reason. And conveniently, when we’re most likely to violate a principle, that’s when we have the most reason to do so. No matter what you think about lying, you’re going to tell the Nazis there are no Jews here.

      The bending of principles will always happen, no matter how steadfast we are, because we will always give into temptation. I don’t need to say ahead of time that I’ll be willing to violate my principles in order to do it. But if I set my standards at “Uphold my principles most of the time” then the sliding will progress ever farther down the slope. I leave the piton at the top of the mountain, so that no matter how many times I fall, I’ll still not hit the ground.

      1. Sometimes, words get in the way of conveying the actual principle.

        For example, “no lying”–what is lying? Why are you not lying? What is the purpose of it, in the levels of principles?

        Telling a Nazi where the Jews are is using the truth to harm someone– both the Jews and the Nazis, at the same time. That’s a perversion of the Truth, that’s causing harm without need, and it’s a betrayal of trust.

  2. The image that came to mind was of the young Chinese during the Cultural Revolution trying to work in the fields and factories all day and then attending political meetings all night. The people trying to embrace intersectionality and all that goes with it are exhausting themselves by trying to prove that they follow all the correct doctrines, and then chasing down the latest correct doctrine before abasing themselves for having accidentally acknowledged the now-wrong-bad-evil doctrine.

    We’re also close to the 20th anniversary of the PRC’s retaking Hong Kong. I was wondering which is worse: to never know a system where you are not absolute property of the state to be used and discarded at the government’s whim, or to grow up seeing what limited government can be like and then have creeping totalitarianism imposed on you.

    1. This reminds me of an article of Dave Barrys. It’s about his trip to Hong Kong, back when it was still free. But despite writing it in 1995, and being a journalist committed more to humor than to serious commentary, he made no secret about how he believe that China was run by, and I believe these were exactly his words, “Cold-hearted murderers”. He repeatedly expressed concern for the people of Hong Kong, including the part where they never got any say in being turned over to the PRC.

      Perhaps the Miami Herald was a more conservative paper, and so he could say that. But I wonder how much of the MSM these days would allow articles to be published calling a communist ‘utopia’ something like that? It seems absurd that they wouldn’t, but then it seems absurd that people would be calling Islam a feminist religion.

      1. Horrible as I think it was to let the people of Hong Kong fall under the sway of the PRC, I think it should be remembered that the UK only had a 99 year lease, it was expiring – and the PRC is also a nuclear power.

  3. “Take heart, they may come for you last.” I believe that is why a number of people who support the idea of people over principle do so. They are hoping they’ll be the last one dragging bodies out of the gas chamber.

  4. Posting a link to this in a thread where people are demanding I apologize for “mansplaining”.
    The alleged victim of this alleged crime hasn’t said boo about it, and she’s the only one in the crowd who has any right to voice an objection. Furthermore, she had just “mansplained” in her own comment, so this has become a display of rank sexism as well as “assuming my gender” which is apparently part of this year’s bundle of new thought crimes.

      1. “Mansplaining” is when a man explains something to a woman and the woman doesn’t “like” the explanation.

        IE It’s another way of calling somebody a “sexist”. 😦

      2. It is a thought crime (or rather, an assertion of such) employed to put the accused on the defensive and avoid addressing the actual argument made. Like “racist,” “sexist,” “blankophobe,” and “kulak” its purpose is to put the accused on the defensive and win the arguments without offering a rebuttal. In our youth the version most commonly deployed was “Yeah, well you’re a big poopyhead” and in High School it took the form of “Nerd!”

        It is a semantically null term of opprobrium.

        Oh – you mean what is the specific basis of the offense? It presumes that men tend to provide more background information, more analysis of underlying principles than a woman wants to hear. Because women never over analyze nor over explain anything.

        Cue Dave Barry:
        Some women (and here I’m referring to my wife) can share as many as three days’ worth of feelings about an event that took eight seconds to actually happen. We men, on the other hand, are reluctant to share our feelings, in large part because we often don’t have any. Really. Ask any guy: A lot of the time, when we look like we’re thinking, we just have this low-level humming sound in our brains. That’s why, in male-female conversations, the male part often consists entirely of him going, “Hmmmm.” This frustrates the woman, who wants to know what he’s really thinking. In fact, what he’s thinking is, literally, “Hmmmm.”

        Hmmmm, I think I need to get the transmission checked.

        1. I do like the idea of replacing every instance of “mansplaining” with “Well, you’re a big poopy head!” I think it explains what’s going on far more effectively.

          Hmmm…maybe I can make a browser extension to that effect.

        2. > we just have this low-level humming sound in our brains

          Pretty much. I can go weeks without any particular feeling, other than some annoyance for the increasing number of idiots who don’t know what stop signs are for.

          My wife will ask things like, “What are you feeeeeeling?”, and gets really upset when I say “nothing.”

          Apparently some people walk around in some Robert-Ludlumesque thunderstorm of emotional reactions to everything about them. Which seems crazy to me…

          1. Some of them will also be upset if your response is “hungry”. That’s often the cause of that annoying hum, btw. A sammich will fix it.

            1. Some years ago, at a mass disaster recovery, one of the female “psychological comforter” types (clergy, I think) asked a friend how he was feeling; she went away when he said “I’m feeling really horny.”

              1. Probably talking to me or one of our brotherhood.
                Which actually isn’t a bad thing when asked about whether a dress makes her look fat or not.
                “But honey, everything makes you horny.”
                “What did you expect? I’m a guy.”
                “You’re 58.”
                “Years of experience and still going.”
                She giggles as he enfolds her in his arms, and the dress quietly slides unnoticed to the ground.

                Misdirection and distraction as means of adhering to the principle of do no unnecessary harm isn’t a bad thing. And it does avoid uttering a falsehood, or a harsh truth.

          2. You might try, “I’m ANGRY. I’m mad as Hell and I’m not gonna take it any more!” But, you’re likely too smart to say that.

        3. The problem is two fold:

          1. The man is talking about objective facts usually.
          2. The man is not talking about the woman’s feelings and actually interrupting her talking about her feelings.

          There is no solipsism quite like feminism.

          1. Maybe you run into a better class of gal than I do… mine usually have a third, where the problem is that they don’t like the explanation.

            That might be a variation on #1, though– most of the “mansplaining” I’ve gotten has been from women, and the issue is that their facts were wrong.

            1. And then they think I’m a man. And then I explain otherwise. And then they try to shame me some different way.

              Actually, Fr. Hunwicke recently thought I was “Mr. Suburbanbanshee,” and I was laughing so hard that I didn’t inquire if this was some kind of UK professor sarcasm or what. (Pretty sure it was sarcasm, whether or not he was aware of my sex, because he was explaining that I had not supported my argument with evidence. And I was totally okay with that, because… I hadn’t.)

              Sometime’s it’s about being male or female… it’s about me being too lazy to look it up, albeit I did label it as a guess. (It’s also about not knowing where to look for medieval French and Flemish sources of this kind.)

              Guesses, BS, or random comments by women are no more sacred than the same thing coming from men. Unless we are to adopt the rules of Regency genteel conversation, where a gentleman never contradicts a lady and vice versa… (And that would eliminate more of Internet traffic than a reliable way to ban porn.)

                    1. Odd, I’ve never seen anything like that– it’s Gaelic based, bean-sidhe, first one meaning woman, second being the Irish elves. (which are more Tolkien than cobbler and the elves)

                      IIRC, the original “screaming” thing was a single family, and only because they were relations; more common was to see one washing blood clothes in the river- yours.

                    2. It ought be obvious that the Irish seers were prophesying Sarah, the Baen Sidhe.

                    3. Double checking, here’s dictionary dot com’s version:
                      British Dictionary definitions for banshee Expand
                      /ˈbænʃiː; bænˈʃiː/
                      (in Irish folklore) a female spirit whose wailing warns of impending death
                      Word Origin
                      C18: from Irish Gaelic bean sídhe, literally: woman of the fairy mound
                      Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
                      © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
                      Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

                    4. *confused* It’s got nothing to do with “bane,” and there’s nothing about avenging involved. Fairy mounds, the entry to elf-land; the burial mounds associated with those-who-came-right-before-humans in Ireland.

                      …and suddenly, if I could draw, I would be doing an Elf version of Avengers. Legolas Hawkeye, Strider Cap…..

              1. Yep.

                I don’t mind folks saying “him” or “he” when it’s obviously just a generic, it only bugs me when their entire argument is based on my not being female.

                Although the whiplash between “you can’t talk about that, you’re a man and never have to worry about being pregnant” and “you don’t count, you’ve already given birth before” was kinda amusing.

      3. ‘mansplaining’ is when someone acts like an adult and presents factual, logic-based arguments in rebuttal of whatever loony idea is being promulgated by a speshul snowflake, and SS doesn’t like the answer because fact and logic are ‘oppressive patriarchy’ or whatever.

        1. But he only uses facts and logic to obscure the issue. It’s a sexist male thing.

          “You must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly.

          “In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it “Bulverism”. Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father — who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than a third — “Oh you say that because you are a man.” “At that moment”, E. Bulver assures us, “there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.” That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century.”

          –from “Bulverism,” by C. S. Lewis

      4. One of the crybullies posted a Jeoparty-style clue: “This 21st C. word happens when a male patronizingly tells a female about a topic she already understands.”

        1. Had she already understood there would have been no cause for explanation, in which case why did she prompt such an explanation? It should not be necessary to explain how this is all the woman’s fault, a kafka trap in which she has attempted to ensnare a man.

          N.B., “patronizingly” is a subjective term having little semantic content.

        2. “This 21st C. word happens when a male patronizingly tells a female about a topic she already thinks she understands.”
          FIF them.

          1. Ah, so it’s the male-specific form of “you’re talking to me like a child!” when someone uses logic…and facts…and yet fails– gasp!– to agree with teh accuser.

      5. My response, which I consider to be the correct one, is “What is ‘offense thief’?”

      6. Short way of saying “you horrible male, how dare you act like whatever you’re saying even needs to be said!”

        But with extra sexism, because it tries to make it a strictly guy thing.

  5. Another example of “Person or Principle” is in Walter Williams’ essay, “People Before Profits”

    “Here’s Williams’s law: whenever the profit incentive is missing, the probability that people’s wants can be safely ignored is the greatest. ”

    (Oh dear, did I just :”mansplain” again? Oh wait! “Are you assuming my gender???”)

    1. This type of nonsense is why I resolutely refrain from any specific expression of gender identity in any of my posts, because people would (back in the old days of internet discussion) a gender in order to dismiss or even condemn my points while avoiding any actual addressing of them. Now, if anybody assumes a gender identity for me I am free to throw back in their face the acid of sarcastic accusation of their assumptions.

      1. Given the modern flexibility with the term, you could probably declare your gender to be “wallaby” and then accuse anyone who disagrees of marsupialphobia.

        1. “15% Kirghan, 85% A-10 Warthog.”

          After all, it would be wrong to exclude the fictional and mechanical…

            1. *quietly takes notes for targeted advertising for the new Cardiac Cath Lab service at Sector 12 General Hospital.*

  6. That Bolt quote is applicable to many historical circumstances, including today’s various leftist socio-political projects. It’s a sight to behold the Devil coming after those on the left who aren’t keeping up with the program.

    Modern day feminism (I can’t keep track of the waves these days) probably has the best and most ludicrous examples of the Devil coming for his apostates. But you can also obviously see it in Publishing, Academia, and the Democrat party. Sure this new religion has invented its bogeymen of *ists and *ophobes, but that attack has lost its sting on The Enemy. But the true believers are still deathly afraid of it. And so their pronouncements and preaching show no sign of veering back toward reality.

    They’ve laid waste to intellectual honesty, academic rigor, and even the language. And now the devil is coming for the souls he paid for.

    Excellent essay.

  7. The base idea of intersectionality isn’t really a bad one. It’s the idea that all human rights and civil rights movements are interconnected and therefore should be supportive of each other. For instance, the fight for rights for one group, and the fight for rights for another should be supportive of each other. Even if they don’t SEEM connected on the face of it, a win for one, can (and often does) have positive effects the other. A win in either fight reduces the power of Bigotry, perhaps relaxing it’s grip on everyone. Example: voting rights. Once Black men were given the right to vote, it became that much easier for other groups to be granted the franchise.

    The problem is… people. People are ignorant and cruel and jealous of perceived advantages gained by others. Yes, that is a generalization, but nearly everyone, if they took the time to introspect (and were honest) would probably have to admit that they can see that in themselves. If you can, congratulations, you are human with the same flaws that everyone has. If you can’t, well either you are a Saint (not likely), or maybe you aren’t really being quite honest with yourself (or maybe you’re a lying sack of excrement… eh, could go either way. The important thing is to recognize our flaws, and work to become a better person.)

    Unfortunately, like any good idea, it has to rely on people for implementation. Or maybe it would be more correct to say “it gets co-opted and screwed up by people”. Those people over-think the whole blasted thing and bam, you get grievance mongering and victimization prioritizing and politics. This leads to choosing one person over another, one cause over another, purity testing, and exclusion. Often times the people excluded actually AGREE with the cause – as in the case of the Jewish lesbians recently.

    There isn’t an answer, at least not one I can see. Well, besides the annihilation of the human species, which wouldn’t really so much FIX the problem as make the hole point moot (no people, no screwing up of the idea of intersectionality… or any other idea for that matter). Which seems a little drastic… and no, I’m not proposing that as a viable solution, just day-dreaming. I actually like most people at least half as much as they deserve, so maybe killing everyone should be taken off the table… there, done, it’s no longer on the table, happy?

    1. All civil rights movements are not connected.

      Leftists are currently trying to add my medical issues to their big ol’ pot of victims.

      As part of that, they are effectively claiming that all organic mental health issues are essentially the same, deserve the same treatment, and just fold into LGBT issues.

      This is actively harmful to my actual interests.

      (As a result, I’ve taken a much harsher critical stance towards ‘LGBT issues’, not that I was ever really an ‘ally’. (Pulling this shit, involving outsiders who have no real stake and giving them so dysfunctional a mental toolset as to be harmful, raises the question of whether the same thing goes on inside the LGBT community.))

      I cannot say how harshly I oppose this.

      1. Oh, it isn’t just organic mental health…any kind of being against gender expectations is being lumped into being transgender. In fact, transgenderism is now on the verge of instituting gender roles as biological and inherent in a way the bad old days never tried to do. Except drag queens are being excluded as harmful to trans people (don’t ask, I can’t explain it).

        Why? To make the trans pool large enough to justify more government.

        1. I read someone trying to explain why drag queens are bad for trans people… I still don’t get it. I suspect the writer didn’t either, and had just produced word-salad with all the current buzz-phrases.

          1. Really?

            It makes perfect sense to me– drag queens are explicitly guys who are dressing up as girls. If they do that, and it doesn’t mean “I am really a girl,” then what does that mean about the poor guy who dresses as what he “really” is?

            Same reason they have to insist that tomboys are transboys.

            1. And because drag queens are usually actually happy people, rather than the crushing depression in which it seems most transgendered live. They aren’t doing it because of some psychological need, but because they enjoy it.

              1. Drag queens also do two other things:

                1. They study and deploy makeup and fashion. Thus they prove that if a man can overcome overwhelming barriers to creating a “sexy” appearance, any woman could also do it if she cared to do so.

                2. They proceed to do a lot better job with makeup and fashion than the average feminist.

                Now, to be fair, there is something annoying about a man doing pretty well with what often strikes a woman as a caricature of femininity. But honestly, it doesn’t make women of this sort happy when they see it done really well. So I think there is another factor.

                Storytime! Usually, I don’t worry too much about my style of femininity (ie, competent and reasonably attractive, not really trying very hard). But I have to admit that when I went to Wright State and saw a famous kabuki actor live, doing a very good job of playing a woman’s role while dancing and singing… and then he said in the interview afterward that most modern women weren’t nearly attractive enough in their bearing to compete with his practiced womanly charms… it torqued me off. (Especially since he really had worked at it all his career, and thus had a legit point.)

                Women are highly competitive with each other. Having a guy jump into the game, even when he’s heterosexual and not really competing for men, is sort of like jumping into the middle of a duel to the death, and suddenly making yourself a target for both sides. If it turns out that person is also a pretty good fighter, nobody is going to like him better for that.

                1. Makes sense. The one transgendered person I’ve known looked like a freakin linebacker in a sundress. Other than wearing a dress, she (I assume “she”, I didn’t ask if she was post-op, and she never said) didn’t really try at all to LOOK like a woman. On the other hand, I’ve known a couple drag queens. One of which it was nearly impossible to tell HE wasn’t a woman when he was in drag (albeit a very outgoing, flamboyant “woman”). Another that I didn’t really know personally was the brother of a friend of mine and was one of the number one Siouxsie (from Siouxsie and the Banshees) impersonator of the time (quite a few years ago). While I didn’t meet him, I did see a few pictures. It was impressive.

            2. Ah, the irony. In the 1960s many feminists said their purpose was to smash the entire sex-role system. Now others want to dragoon children into medical treatment to conform more closely to it. . . .

    2. I actually like most people at least half as much as they deserve
      I actually TREAT most people TWICE as well as they deserve. Until they make it impossible.

      1. It’s a good strategy. If you are almost unfailingly nice to people, they tend to take good care of you. After all, you may be the only halfway polite person they’ve delt woth on the job all week. Tuen, if you NEED to get irate, it has that much more impact.

        I once obtain ned a,”Use and ccupancy permit” from the Prince George’s County government in one week (average time, six months) by telling the nice lady at the counter “I’m in way over my head. Can you help me?”. I have to assume that I was a welcome change from all the raving jerks demanding their “rights”.

        OTOH, I also got a car,dealership to give me a loaner car I was technically not entitled to for while my car was having a recall issue delt with (loaner coverage was for REPAIRS) by telling them they could get memthe car and Imwould be out of their hair, or they could be jerks about it and Imwould make a scene in the middle of their sales floor on a Saturday.

        You save the anger for when it’s useful

    3. It’s the idea that all human rights and civil rights movements are interconnected and therefore should be supportive of each other.

      So they want to hijack the Catholic idea of basic human dignity, too, but chopped into bits for only them?

        1. Good heavens, look at what they did to the concept of ordering a society to promote each person getting their due! Turned it on its head to the point of such nonsense as people not deserving the rewards of their own labor is praised.

    4. There are a lot of things that are “good ideas” but you can’t implement a “good idea” with methods based on feelings. I wish I’d gotten a mention of the Jewish pride flag kerfuffle in there. If anyone missed it, some ladies with a pride flag with a star of David on it were asked to leave a pride parade because the symbol, no matter how it was intended, might be seen as hostile by some participants. Someone else with a very pretty Muslim pride flag wrote a response and said that if they refused the Jewish flag for “Zionism” they had to refuse her flag too, because of the horrible things done to gays in the name of Islam. The Muslim girl was appealing to principle where everyone should be treated equally and have an equal right to expression of their identity. The people who told the ladies with the Jewish flag to leave were appealing to feelings, that it was unacceptable that someone’s feelings be hurt… but they hurt feelings in the process of it.

      The idea of “intersectionalism” is a good idea, far as I can tell. But when you simply MUST decide who’s feelings matter and who’s feelings don’t, you get what you get. Which is nothing “good” at all.

      1. I would say that the Muslim girl got intersectionalism RIGHT. Supporting the rights of the Jewish lesbians is still supporting lesbians. Which helps ALL lesbians.

        Sadly, in that particular case, it sounds like a grand opportunity was missed. How powerful a message would it have been to show Muslim and Jewish lesbians putting their other differences aside to join together for the cause. Instead, we all got to read snarky news stories about exclusion and hate.

      2. “The people who told the ladies with the Jewish flag to leave were appealing to feelings, that it was unacceptable that someone’s feelings be hurt… but they hurt feelings in the process of it.”

        More along the lines of “someone ‘s feelings might be hurt, and it’s more acceptable to hurt Jewish feelings than Muslim.” How much of that is because hurt Muslim feelings tend to result in piles of body parts I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader.

        1. There are MVPs (Moral Virtue Points) to be won by demonstrating sympathy with oppressed victims of Islamophobia and none to be gained by respecting the feeling of Jews, even lesbian ones.

          It isn’t about Concern For Feelings, it is about claiming MVPs.

  8. Yes, you were right to find the original question incoherent; it is an “apples/oranges” (or more accurately, an “apples/croquet balls” comparison in which superficially similar things are compared against a false metric.

    Appropriate answers include “which people, what principle?” and “Liverwurst.” This is an example of what Thomas Sowell described as the Intellectual’s favorite ploy, arguing without arguments. It is a Hobson’s Choice of a question, akin to “Does this dress my my butt look too big?” It confuses and instrumental goal (principle) with an end end goal (people) in order to force the answerer into a particular stance.

    “Putting People First” is a principle. The measure of a principle is the degree to which it serves people, as recognized in the warning given by faux Thomas More.

    1. “Appropriate answers include “which people, what principle?” and “Liverwurst.””


  9. “Now imagine, instead of just choosing sides and promoting your cause, you’ve decided to try to choose ALL sides and promote ALL causes. Now instead of one person or one cause to put before others, you’ve got to juggle bunches of people and causes and decide their order.”

    You say this as if it was a cost of taking such a view. For certain people it may be a benefit. See, for example, Ayn Rand’s portrayal of the Twentieth Century Motor Company after they adopted “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” as a management policy: all the employees had to show up before Ivy Starnes, the Director of Distribution, and explain what their needs were and why they were more important than other people’s, and Starnes got to enjoy her power over them, in a way she could not have dreamed of when pay was determined by contracts.

    1. The irony of this example is that every time the company and the employee negotiates a contract, the company and the employee *are* doing precisely this: the company expresses a need for work, and an ability to pay, while the employee expresses a need for money, and an ability to work for that pay.

      It was a while ago that I realized that pretty much *every* stated goal of Communism is achieved by Capitalism; thus, the Communist’s hatred of Capitalism is indicative of the fact that they are jealous of having a lack of power.

      Thus, in a way, the example falls flat.

      But not completely flat, though: it’s not that hard to imagine replacing Ivy Starnes with a government panel that does the same thing. Indeed, George Bernard Shaw recommends exactly that — and while a company bureaucrat will, at most, turn you away for a lack of ability to do something, putting you in a position, in the worst case, to starve for a day, while you continue to try to justify your existence (but in general, you’ll likely be able to find others to help you through a difficult time) — George would have you “humanely” executed, if you cannot justify your existence.

      I often wonder if George Bernard Shaw ever imagined the possibility that he would be in front of such a panel, and one that didn’t consider “writing imaginary stories for the amusement of others” to be a sufficient reason to continue to exist. I doubt it, though. I suspect that whenever he imagined this panel, he was vain enough to imagine that he’d be one of the members sitting on it!

      1. May I request a citation so I can read this? Sounds like a chilling counterpoint to all the people lamenting capitalism and advocating socialism because, after all, nobody should be put at a disadvantage for (for example) medical issues that weren’t their fault.

      2. Well, in the first place, “from each according to his ability” doesn’t describe what most employees are doing. That is, they don’t work up to the limit of what they can do, day in and day out. There are people who do that, but most people choose to work sufficiently to earn the money that provides their desired standard of living, and leave some free time to enjoy that standard of living. In fact, it’s “from each according to his needs.”

        And conversely, most employers don’t pay employees based on what the employees “need.” There may be some element of this. But usually the employer pays up to, but no more than, the increased net revenue that results from hiring the employee; the employee who contributes more increased revenue is in a position to get paid more. In other words, it’s more like “to each according to his ability.”

        The real point, though, was that under the former relationship, the employees decided what they need, and did the work necessary to earn the money to provide what they needed. But under the new regime, the employees weren’t free to make that decision; instead they had to describe their needs, and have the Director of Distribution decide what counted as real needs, and whose needs came first, and they had to do whatever grovelling and bootlicking was necessary to get her to favor them—and the fact that they had worked hard, or produced a lot, or come up with a brilliant idea, was irrelevant; doing any of those things got them judged “more able” and required to work harder, but it didn’t get them judged “more needy.” And of course that gave the Director of Distribution power over them; that was the point.

        I’m struck, as I write this, by the similarity to present-day college campuses.

      3. I often wonder if George Bernard Shaw ever imagined the possibility that he would be in front of such a panel, and one that didn’t consider “writing imaginary stories for the amusement of others” to be a sufficient reason to continue to exist.

        Consciously or unconsciously?

        I got the impression he didn’t much care for himself.

  10. Reminds me of a dispute I have yet to resolve with someone over parsing the Christian imperative to love. Any policy has tradeoffs, which means it hurts someone, so you can cherrypick examples and ask if the policy is being loving towards those specific people.

    (Exclusive of examples like ‘twenty years for possession of Marijuana’. The possession implies use, and drug users are effectively mentally ill people when they are high, and cannot be institutionalized for various reasons. The free range asylum of the streets has a pretty crappy standard of care. It could be argued that even prison’s standard of care is better, and twenty years is an opportunity to become someone who no longer needs that care. I don’t like this argument, for fear of convincing people that prisons should be operated that way, I prefer people think in terms of punishment. But the example of ‘twenty years for possession of Marijuana’ is still flawed, even without the probability of violent behavior that wasn’t proven.)

    Some policies, like impartiality in law, are so beneficial to very many people that lovingly sparing the people hurt by them is being unloving towards everyone else. Loving specific people close to you is the root of a lot of screwed up societies that cause unnecessary misery and suffering. An impartial love towards everyone means knowingly and cold bloodedly hurting people you love.

    Though, as a recovering technocrat, there are bad ways of putting principle over person. Some policies, like most if not all technocracy, are so bad for everyone that putting them first causes needless suffering.

    1. Policies are usually put in place for a reason that seems good at the time. Unfortunately, as time passes needs change, but policy, unexamined, yet chiseled in stone, becomes the armor within which drones and bureaucrats (but I repeat myself) clad themselves when it comes time to take responsibility for their actions. One ought not to presume that the principle under which the policy was promulgated still applies, or was good at the outset.

        1. Absolutely. I have as little patience with, say, a new manager who comes into a department and tosses out the SOP manual just because it is ‘old fashioned’, and a ‘new broom sweeps clean’ as I do with those who insist that we do something in a certain manner just ‘because we’ve always done it this way’. It can be difficult, especially in a time of change, to examine the principles behind why we do things as we do, but it is essential that we do so.

        2. the principle of Chesterton’s Fence:

          In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

          This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.

          G. K. Chesterton

          1. These days the presumption that it was not built by ‘escaped’ lunatics seems questionable. It assumes a society capable of keeping those whose mental state endangers themselves and others confined.

  11. Actually, unless the motivation is to follow a charismatic leader solely due to his flash, then sides do form based on principles. Everyone has principles they value more than others, and this becomes the source of sides. Valuing people over principle means turning a blind eye to principle when a person is involved. Consider a judge who is a staunch supporter of the rule of law, but discovers a close relative is responsible for a crime. If he attempts to cover it up, he has put a person – a relative – over his principle – the law. If he turns the relative over to the authorities, he has put his principle of the rule of law ahead of people.

    Now, if the judge protects the relative, yet is more than willing to give the maximum sentencing to someone else guilty of the same offense, then beside playing the hypocrite, he’s applying his principles in an uneven manner. Thus we could say his practicing the rule of men rather than the rule of law. This, I think, is where you were headed with this.

    I will not buy some authors or publications due to principles. In doing so I have chosen a side. But I do not look askance at someone who does exactly the same thing to authors and publications I like. If someone on the left swears to do no commerce with conservatives, more power to them, for it is their money to do with as they wish, and in my opinion conservatives should do likewise with the left, if so moved. If someone on the left harasses someone on the right based on principles, but does not think those on the right should return the favor, then they are placing people over principle. If – and I’ve yet to encounter one – they think that yes, that’s a good way for anyone to practice political discourse, then they actually are placing principle over people.

    This actually gets into very hairy and controversial issues where it is possible to act in ways that we might not think is right, but is based on principle. Perhaps even pointing that out is too much to maintain proper decorum, and I’ll not go beyond it. Yet I can see where even a staunch adherence to principle can go to places we’d rather not, depending on what those principles may be.

    This is where those who are keen on placing people ahead of principle claim they are in the right. And yet, as you point out, if sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander, it can lead to Bad Things as well.

    Perhaps it’s best to realize both can lead to Bad Things if taken in those directions. That, unfortunately, isn’t a pat answer, but perhaps it’s the best we can do.

    1. I will not buy some authors or publications due to principles. In doing so I have chosen a side. But I do not look askance at someone who does exactly the same thing to authors and publications I like.

      There are authors who I eschew because they have made it clear they do not want my money, do not want to entertain me, consider me a deplorable person to whom they feel compelled to lecture. There are actors who have forever ensured I cannot see them without thinking of unrelated factors (e.g., Woody Allen) which preclude my ability to see the role, not the actor. (Mark Ruffalo is treading close to this line.) I find I no longer get much pleasure from certain musicians (Bruce!) who have oopted to use their stage as a political platform. Hey, they clearly feel they can afford to lose my support, so c’est la vie.

      OTOH, if an author, actor, musician recognizes his or her first duty is to facilitate their performance by eliminating distractions about their existence outside the role, if they grasp their primary function is to make me <I<care about their art, not their cause, then we can get along happily. If they don’t drag their nails across my ideological chalkboard by lecturing me about their pet peeves, they have generally succeeded in entertaining me and earned my entrancement fee.

      I don’t like Heavy Metal, having no ear for it, but I do not insist those who do like it are somehow worse human beings for that liking, just as I do not think myself the more deplorable for liking Scottish pipe and accordion music. We all have different tastes and preferences and those differences do not generally relate to any factors of character, ideology or personal merit. Mostly they distract from what is, or ought be, in common.

      1. > metal

        On the other hand, the metal fans are the opposite of exclusive. They divide people into two groups: metal fans, and people who aren’t metal fans *yet*.

        I think the genre sounds like a truck backing into an alley full of garbage cans while accompanied by a choir of barking walruses, but at least they’re not sanctimoniously telling me I’m a lesser person because I don’t share their musical tastes.

        1. But, like many religious adherents, they will sadly shake their head and mutter “You just don’t get it, man.” 🙂

          (Full disclosure: my son is in a couple of death metal bands. They’ve even played at one of the local big name venues.)

        2. The ‘Industrial’ amuses me some. I find it to be largely noise and recall some good rythms from non-consecutive punch presses. So I think ‘almost’ industry sounds better.’

        3. Hey! Metal is just Russian Greats on electricity.

          Seriously. Have you tried Apocalyptica? (Metal cello quartet.)

          1. What is it with the freakin’ cellos?

            I just discovered 2Cellos a couple of months ago. They do covers of rock songs. And their cover of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” is awesome…

            1. There’s something exciting (thrilling?) about hearing orchestral instruments in rock music.

              I don’t know what it is precisely, but it enhances the music in ways that only the guitars and drums… don’t.

              Of course, I also find it thrilling when they use the bass guitar to play the melody line, so…

              1. How about the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra doing KISS? It’s “KISS Alive IV” on the Toob…

              2. Metal’s not metal without bagpipes.

                I may exaggerate, but Graveworm’s cover of ‘Fear of the Dark’ is awesome.

    2. If someone operates on the principle that it’s right and good to harass and punish people for wrong political thought and holds that for all sides, I suppose it would be a principle. (Since it’s equal, it must be.) But I don’t think that exists beyond a hypothetical. In the real world people are unable to view that harassment and punishment objectively. Maybe because they think that harassment and punishment should be proportional to the crime. Yes? So *they* oppose the bad things. Who could possibly be punished for opposing bad things? But *you* oppose the good things and if you get your way people will be seriously harmed. Shouldn’t you get far worse punishment than they do? So if the good person is punished a little, that’s a huge tragedy. If the bad person isn’t punished enough, it’s better than they deserve.

      More, I don’t think that I argued that principles are good simply because they’re a principle. A system where the expectation is that you only hire or serve those from your own church, or as we see often enough in other parts of the world (for example, Iraq) where the universal expectation is that anyone with any power will (and ought) to favor their own faction and screw over the others might be, in some sense, equally applied, but it ends in bloodshed.

  12. It seems self-evident to me that shifting opinions protect one about as well as closing your eyes keeps others from seeing you.
    Hey! Don’t diss the Ravenous Bugblatter of Trall! (And, always carry a towel!)

  13. The ‘people before principles’ idea is a uniquely FEMALE idea. It attempts to create an ethical system based on WHO the person is, rather than setting up a neutral one that imposes the same ethical obligations towards all.
    But, then, most women are irrational. And, a hell of a lot of men.

    1. It’s hardly a uniquely female system. It’s the default system that has been out there for most of history. It’s the Arab proverb, “I against my brother, my brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the stranger.” It’s the Portuguese saying that Sarah has talked about, “He who has no Godfather dies in prison.” It’s every tribe that says, “Wrongs we do to others don’t count; any wrong done to one of us is an outrage that must be avenged.”

      The idea of principles–that it’s wrong to steal from others, if your brother steals from the stranger he is in the wrong despite the fact that he is your brother–that’s what’s rare among both men and women.

      1. Dear Lord,
        Bless me.
        Bless my wife.
        Son John.
        His wife.
        Us four.
        No more.

  14. I think a nuance here is the idea of ordering your principles. Bob and a couple of others hit around it (or don’t say it the way I’m about to).

    As our wallaby says, putting People First is a principle. The key is, it’s a top tier principle, overriding other principles (by definition, since you’re putting them First). And that’s really the issue – which one goes on top.

    In Christianity, the Ten Commandments boil down to the two: Love God, and Love Your Neighbor. Jesus points out that one comes first, though there isn’t much daylight between them. (Not a religious advocacy, just pointing out an example that should be familiar to most.)

    In Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, the first overrides the other laws. And the second overrides the third. (Again, not a religious discussion, just an example everyone here knows.)

    To a Conservative (by the set of definitions that seemed to operate when I was a young Odd) the first principle is Equality Under The Law (or possibly Law And Order), followed by Liberty. For Libertarians, it was the opposite (or, for some subset, the second was There Oughtn’t Be A Law At All).

    Kevin points this out with his judicial example. (Our Founders specifically put People First out of the running with the “No Bills of Attainder” clause.)

    Another problematic ordering is when Believe Your Dogma is the first principle in your schema, and Your Dogma isn’t supported by reality. (Which is, I suppose, another Principle we consider higher than others: Reality As Observed and Documented.) This requires some … stretching, to say the least.

    OK, probably just repeated a bunch of stuff others said better. *flings soapbox at the next in line*

    1. Which is, I suppose, another Principle we consider higher than others: Reality As Observed and Documented.

      Not contradicted by reality? AKA, rational?

  15. I have an idea which work and characters you’re referring to, and there are enough holes in the idea of “people before principles” to drive a high-explosive laden truck through.
    Yes, there are some horrific examples in history of people doing great harm by putting principles first, depending on the principle. There are also some horrific examples of people doing great harm by putting people, or classes of peoples, first.

    1. Generally, “Principles before personalities” seems like a good guideline. Extra credit: Do you want Justice? or Mercy?

        1. I think it was C. S. Lewis who said that in stories children want to see the “villain” receive “justice” but the adults often want to see the “villain” receive “mercy”. I’m not sure but I think he continued with “adults may know they deserve justice and thus want mercy”. 😉

          1. I can’t recall right now whether it was he who pointed out that children will never understand mercy if they don’t get justice first. If your toy is stolen and the adult response is a lecture on sharing, the child’s–quite justified–conclusion is “So theft is all right with you, if *he* does it.”

    2. There’s always the wrinkle that it’s people, not person— there’s a lot of folks who are very fond of “people,” not so much of most individual persons. (And, to be fair, the otherway around. I try to really like “people,” but I’m more neutral to mildly positive about “people” and love persons….)

      1. Heard the line: “I love Humanity. It’s people I can’t stand.”? 😉

  16. It’s a tricky argument, and depends on interpretation.

    For example, are we talking about ‘people’ as individuals or ‘people’ as classes or attributes (black, white, ‘female-bodied’, ‘male-identifying’ etc)

    And second, there’s another saying I’ve heard: the abstract is where good turns into evil. There’s something to be said about taking the human cost (to yourself or others) of following your principles into account.

    And what happens when sticking to your principles means being buried with your principles?

    I think I’ve seen this conflict play out during the Trump election and the never-Trumpers who were dead set against him on principle, then turned around and helped attack Milo for the same reason.

    In sci-fi terms: what good does sticking to your principles do if it results in the aliens winning the war and wiping out humanity – and all our principles with us?

    1. In LOTR the good guys defeated Mordor without using the Ring and becoming Mordor, but only due to what amounted to a miracle – albeit an extremely subtle one: Sam sparing Gollum out of pure pity when the smart thing objectively would be to put the dangerous creature down, resulting in Gollum’s own greed and the Ring’s own evil destroying it when Frodo was unable to. But I don’t think real life will work out like that.

      1. Real life does work that way sometimes. Often enough evil really does mar evil.

      2. On the other hand, Bilbo was able to wear the Ring in The Hobbit and accomplish some good.

      3. Gandalf’s lesson on that was that we just don’t know what will happen. When Bilbo spared Gollum, Bilbo didn’t know that he was sparing what would be his nephew’s guide to Mordor, and the one who would eventually wind up destroying the ring.
        Had Bilbo killed Gollum in cold blood, it is likely that the One Ring would have been able to get a hold on Bilbo’s soul, and he would have turned into something akin to Gollum himself.
        This possibility of becoming the very evil you fight is always a hazard.

      4. The brings to mind the spare-his-life scene from Bored of the Rings, the Harvard Lampoon parody done by Henry Beard and Doug Kenney.

        “He would have finished him off then and there, but pity stayed his hand. It’s a pity I’ve run out of bullets, he thought, as he went back up the tunnel…”

        Word play is fun.

  17. If you follow principles without reference to people, you become a tyrant. If you make all decisions comsidering people without reference to principle, you will necessarily collapse in an overworked heap. And most people who say they follow people instead of principle in fact don’t even try. They just keep the priciples they follow secret (because they are on the order of “Whatever happens, I should benefit”) and they are tyrants.

    All human systems will be fallible. All principles will run smack into necessary exceptions. Nobody can kniw enough about every decision to be impartial.

    Principles and personal connections must inform each-other.

  18. I suppose this means it’s too late for me to send a panicked email to Sarah saying, “Stop! Don’t do it! I take it back!”


    1. It was a good blog, and got some good discussion. Might’ve seen more if some of the frequent commentators weren’t at LC, but nothing to regret.


  19. How do you know which principles are bad?

    They generally involve treating people like things (aka the essence of evil) for some ‘greater purpose’.

    People over principles, as a principle, steers you away from those.

    1. “They generally involve treating people like things”

      Oh, my, yes! “Whenever A annoys or injures B, on the pretext of saveing ot improving X, A is a scoundrel.”

      H. L. Mencken

  20. “Principles, being principles, are those things that apply equally to everyone.”

    uhhh, no. UNIVERSAL principles apply to everyone, equally. That’s a far cry from “principles” which are, at their most basic, a person’s attempt to put into place a “plan” of action in the event of X rather than just winging it every time. The thief who decides that his “principles” won’t allow him to take candy from a baby is simply deciding beforehand what to do when tempted by a baby’s candy. “Never take candy from a baby” is as much a principle, or as little, as “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

    This is why, in truth, most of the insanity from the SJW’s is NOT about “putting people over principles”, it is in fact very much a case of the SJW’s applying their principles. What is the takeaway from this?

    It’s a very, very important one. Not all principles are good.

    1. Somewhere in the middle– principles apply universally, but the equally part is one of her baselines.

      There were a couple of other assumptions in there I didn’t challenge, because the main point was that it’s a language trick. 😀

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