Virtue – A Blast from the Past from November 2015

*Still in Utah — no, I haven’t tried to get out yet.  No, we never got my driver’s license back.  And they say other documents might get me through, so no big deal… probably — so tomorrow’s post might be late, depending on how much time I get to write before going to the airport. So be patient with me a little while.  If I don’t’ get the promo post tomorrow in on time, I’ll do it on Monday, don’t worry. – SAH*

Virtue – A Blast from the Past from November 2015

Real virtue is hard.  I was thinking about this as I was thinking the other day that I’m quite possibly the worst-practitioner-of-my-professed-religion-ever.

You’d not think that from the outside because I try to fit in with the obvious observances, and do the right thing… most of the time.  Look, it’s not hypocrisy, it’s my way of keeping myself close to the straight and narrow.

But there’s a whole host of little things that slip by: times I’m unkind, times I don’t consider others and certainly times I’m lazy or fail to do what I should be doing right then.

Real virtue is hard because most of it is internal.  It’s refraining from doing the things that the natural creature wants to do. It’s doing things you really don’t want to do.  It’s staying up an hour later to finish that overdue project, it’s getting up in the night because your spouse/kid is throwing up in the bathroom, it’s doing dishes before bed so your spouse doesn’t need to worry about them, it’s making a cup of hot cocoa for your kid when it’s snowy out and you know he/she is going to come trudging through the door, wet and cold.

BUT that’s not the hardest part.  The hardest part is putting yourself out for strangers or even people you don’t like very much.  Going out to help your contentious neighbor dig his car out of snow, even though you work from home, and don’t need to. Lending money to a bad-at-planning friend even though you know you won’t be paid back, because they need it more than you, even though it leaves you tight.  Or stopping on a cold night to help some person pick up packages they just dropped.

There are other — little — things that are easier, though still work you don’t need to do, like taking back the carts some right berk left in parking spaces in the grocery store.

I do the later type of thing when I can, the one of being kind to the family most of the time.  (Not always because I’m human and sometimes the body won’t obey no matter how virtuous the mind wants to be.) The virtue in relation to friends, well, I try, but it’s difficult.  It’s difficult because we’re all human and sometimes we don’t know when good turns to enabling, so it’s a judgement call.  And sometimes the “enabling” thing is easy to use as a n excuse, even though it’s probably (we never know for sure) not true.

Being kind to strangers takes the problems of being kind to friends and acquaintances and amplifies them.  I mean, what do you do when there’s that lone little old lady by the side of the road with an obvious broken down car?  Do you stop?  What if her accomplices are in the ditch waiting to jump you?  You might be commanded to be kind to those around you and help those who can’t help themselves, but what do you do when it risks your life?  Are you required to risk your life?  So most of the time you call the police and trust they’ll help the little old lady.  (More on that later.)

And then there’s a whole host of “virtues” and “disciplines” that are internal.  I’m very bad at them, and I believe they matter, because they condition how you see the world, but you don’t see them from the outside.  You don’t see my laziness either, most of the time for reasons of “taking the easy, not the exacting” part, but it’s failing at virtue, nonetheless.

However this is not confession, and I’m not writing this to unburden.

I’m writing this because I was thinking on what it would take to REALLY live my faith and I realized that most of it would be very, very difficult and also nearly invisible to others.

Because we’re human, it’s really hard to do things like never having an uncharitable thought or doing things when you really don’t feel like doing them, or being just kind enough not to enable.

This is why most ancient religions had/have a code of conduct, but also a bunch of actions you can perform, ritually or otherwise to make you feel okay with the divine, without having to go to heroic lengths.

Give gods/saints their pound of butter in the lamp, pray in a certain way, and you feel that you’ve at least studied to the test.  You might not qualify for sainthood or ultimate bliss, but you did what you needed to do, that Himself up there are trying really hard, and it’s not your fault if you fall down sometimes (or often.)

This is also why the older and more mature religions have established ways of atoning and established days for doing so.  Because if you think you’ve “studied to the eternal test” but just in case you missed one of the important tests there is this remedial credit, this way to make yourself clean OR to silence your overactive conscience.

The problem is when you substitute these traditional religions by the pretense of no religion.  Why pretense?  Because most people who claim to have no religion, never the less follow a set of never-examined-or-questioned precepts.

If those precepts are in essence the same as in many traditional religions, you have a lot of my atheist or agnostic friends: be kind to others; help those in need, take care of your own and don’t be a burden on others.  They tend to be — coff.  I know some of you read this — a wee bit more neurotic, as they have no way to make atonement and the unswept dregs of human failure pile up in their back brain.

On the other hand some of us who are religious are also really bad at believing we made full atonement.

But then there are those people who are not religious and who took as their precepts the fuzzier, more insane forms of “virtue.”  Stuff like “Speak for the voiceless.”  I hate that one, because while it’s valid if you’re a religious person or one who watches yourself ALL THE TIME, it’s way to easy to imagine that the voiceless would say JUST what you want them to.  Hence all the nonsense of very very white and privileged people speaking for minorities and then rejecting real minorities who disagree with them.  Or “respect the Earth.”  People like my friend Dave Freer respect the Earth.  They live very close to it, which involves an immense amount of work, and they hunt and use every part of the animal they can, and they don’t pollute more than they can absolutely help.

But people like Al Gore, PREACH respect of the Earth, while living in a mansion larger than some small third world villages, and which certainly takes more energy to heat, and jetting around the world.  They do their “virtue” talk and think that compensates for how they live, I’d guess.

Yesterday, while I was making dinner my husband had some show on where some right prat who fancied himself a comedian was going on and on and on about prisoner rehabilitation.  (Is this the new THING?  I saw it here yesterday, and it’s been cropping up more and more.  I find this very interesting, because I’ve noticed a certain coordination in topics du jour from the over-culture.  Remember when Alaskan cruises were all the thing and every liberal and soft liberal and some non liberals were taking them?  And every magazine was full of stuff about the PRISTINE landscape of Alaska?  All leading up to the rejection of the Alaskan pipeline?  I’ve learned to catch these things in the wind as it were, and be prepared for what liberal cause they’re pushing.  And no, I don’t think they’re a big conspiracy. They’re the result of most people in the media and entertainment being of the same political color and running in the same circles.  In those circumstances it takes very few manipulators in their midst to start this sort of thing, which then runs on its own, until it stops suddenly when no longer useful.  Mind you, the people planting the seeds ARE usually conspirators.  Not so long ago — and probably not now, but who knows? — they took their marching orders from Moscow.)

Younger son finally asked my husband to turn the d*mn thing off, and I realized I was gritting my teeth.  My husband was going along with it for the “funny” and paying no attention to the politics.

I was paying attention, partly, because of the discussion here, and because it was prickling the back of my brain with “is this the new thing?”

But it was annoying the heck out of me, because I’ve heard all this before.  I heard it in Europe.  The poor prisoners, and the horrors they face on coming out, and and and.  At the end of this is a judicial system where a wrist slap is considered harsh.  I don’t have any clue what it is now, but when I came to the States, you could commit murder in Portugal and be out in seven years.  MULTIPLE murders.  And then several busybodies would busy themselves with virtue-signaling by giving you everything they could, things they wouldn’t bother giving/helping poor but honest people with.  And when you failed, as most prisoners do, even with all the help in the world, to integrate back in society, it was society’s fault and more sappy stories were told about you, till they gave you another chance.

This (and I’m not going into the reform/rehabilitation/death penalty matter right now, this one is just an instance) is virtue-signaling on the part of the do-gooders.  These people wouldn’t bestir themselves to help a family in need that has never done anything wrong, because everyone agrees those people need help, and why isn’t the state helping them.  But hey will put themselves out to help prisoners say because the very fact they’re “undeserving poor” makes the virtue of helping them greater.  Not just prisoners, mind, there’s also drug users, or abusers of others, or as we’ve seen in our own field, pedophiles.

Sometimes it’s as though the less deserving the object of concern, the greater the virtue signaling of this “compassion.”

Which brings us to the fact most of this “virtue” is not even real.  They’re not helping anyone.  I have a friend who is a pagan prison chaplain.  He puts his money where his mouth is. He puts his time, his attention, and his work in there too.  Weirdly he’s one of those who doesn’t agitate for leniency in general.  It’s also funny, given how different their traditions, how much he sounds like Peter Grant on the subject.

Sure there are people in there who deserve help in building a new life.  They’re ready to change and work for it, and even if they fail, they deserve help in trying to fix themselves/their lives. But they’re few and far between.  Most of them are psychopaths and sociopaths, who are REALLY GOOD at pretending to want to change.

The people who work closely with them and who know them as much as possible can tell the difference and are in the best position for changing their ways if they can be changed.  Right prats who go on about how we should be lenient to everyone do more harm than good and lead to a world where we’re kind to the cruel and thus cruel to the kind.

Which is what is wrong with all this virtue-signaling talk.  Oh, it makes you feel so good to stand up say for a confessed pedophile and tell everyone how nice they are, and send them pictures of your kids (!) but in the end all that you are doing is enabling someone’s dysfunction.

It makes you feel good to speak for the “voiceless” (because Marxist theory tells you that in a capitalist society the poor/minorities are voiceless, and you never considered Marxist theory is the product of college professors who wouldn’t know voiceless if it bit them in the fleshy portion of the back.)   But in the end you’re just joining your voice to a chorus of out-of-touch academics pushing the world in a very bad direction, where envy is a virtue, the individual isn’t respected and society is a horror out of 1984.

Real virtue is hard.  Virtue signaling is easy.  When you no longer have any real standards virtue signaling is all you have left.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, small dragons and octopi, is what we face.  They say and do these things, from twitter storms to rants about the rights of (insert supposed victim class here, the more repulsive the better) in the same way other religions light butter lamps or genuflect to show devotion.

This absolves them from all real effort to help others, particularly since most of them think it’s someone else’s job, and just call the police, or government, to do the charity work they won’t do.

Our society, from entertainment to news to civic teaching (such as there is, which is almost never formally taught) encourages this form of virtue-signaling over real virtue.

We have a lot of work to do to turn it around.  And most of this is small, private, modeling real virtue and calling out fools on virtue-signaling.  None of it is pleasant or easy.  All or it is needed.

Their system if corrupt, impossible and failing.  In the end they lose.  But we only win if we cultivate real virtue and aren’t afraid to call out false one.

Resist the easy feel-good of virtue signaling.  Do what you can to cultivate real virtue.  And teach your children well.

No one said this would be easy.

100 thoughts on “Virtue – A Blast from the Past from November 2015

  1. ” I mean, what do you do when there’s that lone little old lady by the side of the road with an obvious broken down car? Do you stop? What if her accomplices are in the ditch waiting to jump you? ” That happened to a guy I knew some years back, except that the woman was a young babe.

      1. It’s supposedly a thing in the deeper areas of the Outback. We heard stories from people who were moving across states where a person would ‘be hit by the car’ and when the driver gets out, the car is stolen by the accomplices hiding in the bush, the driver mugged, beaten and left to die in the desert. One young couple was describing to my husband their experience with this, but a local cop happened to be there, managed to stop the husband from getting out of the car, and drew the young man’s attention to the group that had been ready to pounce. “Your wife would have been gang raped and all your possessions stolen. NEVER stop for these guys.”

        It WAS a thing – and maybe still is – back in the Philippines, not too dissimilar to how this strip portrays it.

        1. It’s pretty common in pretty much every major American city. The usual scam is the bump and rob: someone bumps into your car, or causes you to bump into theirs, you get out to exchange insurance, and you’re carjacked.

          1. Oh, and if you drive off, then you’ve “left the scene of an accident”, and can be sued.

    1. It’s an old, old tale …

      Know your Childe Ballads:

      Johnson he was riding along, as fast as he could ride,
      When he thought he heard a woman, he heard a woman cry.

      Johnson getting off his horse, and searching the woods all around,
      Until he came to a woman with her hair pinned to the ground.

      “Woman, dearest woman, who brought you here for to stand?”
      Who that brought you here this morning, with your hair pinned to the ground?”

      “It were three bold and struggling men, with swords keen in hand,
      Who that brought me here this morning, with my hair pinned to the ground.”

      Johnson being a man of his own, and being a man and bold,
      He pulled off his overcoat to hug her from the cold.

      Johnson getting on his horse, and the woman getting on behind,
      Down this lonesome highway rode, fortunes for to find.

      They were riding all along, as fast as they could ride,
      She threw her fingers to her ears, and gave three shivering cries.

      Out sprung three bold and struggling men, with swords keen in hand,
      Who that commanded Johnson, commanded him to stand.

      “I’ll stop, stand,” said Johnson, “I’ll stop, stand,” says he,
      “For I never were in all my life afraid of any three.”

      Johnson killing two of them, not watching the woman behind,
      While he’s at the other one, she stabbed him from behind.

      The day was free and a market day, and the people all passing by,
      Who that saw this awful murder, and saw poor Johnson die.

      1. At a young age The Daughter took to English folk rock. Then she actively pursued the Childe Ballads. This proved most useful in providing opportunities for her an education in the ways of the world.

    2. Young and attractive, or lady with a baby, are the most common.

      Depends on if they’re aiming for guys who wanna impress a girl, or women.

    3. Get out of the car with flashlight in one hand and pistol held discreetly in the other pocket…

  2. George Orwell – On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good and not quite all the time.

  3. Um, OK, this makes three times this week I’ve read or had a conversation about something like this. Usually that means Someone is trying to get my attention. *ducks incoming divine cluebat*

    An example of what Sarah said: two years ago, a mysterious fire-fighting helicopter started appearing in the Panhandle. It did not belong to the State Forest Service or one of their contractors, and it seemed to show up almost as fast as the volunteer departments did when answering range fires. It turned out that a group of ranchers pooled their funds, sent some of their members to get training in what to do, bought the bird and support equipment, and started work. They wanted their names kept quiet, because they were just doing something that needed to be done and that they could do. Now they coordinate with the different local fire departments so there’s not an air traffic problem, but they are doing more to protect the environment and human life than a lot of environmental protesters do.

    1. Interesting. The Fed typically doesn’t like people who help themselves.

      In my area they’ve targeted the volunteer fire departments. At the stroke of a pen, they declared authority over the VFDs and began requiring training and equipment that the VFDs (which were financed through subscriptions and donations) could afford. Since they “didn’t meet the minimum requirements” for official firefighters, they were then disbanded. And the people who were formerly serviced by the VFDs now have the choice of voting in a rather stout property tax to pay for fire service, or simply do without.

      This was *entirely* about competency, and funding had nothing to do with it. And pigs have wings…

      1. Oregon banned non-tax supported VFDs, even though it left an underfunded tax-based department more-or-less responsible for another (banned) department’s area. (The residents wouldn’t sign the annexation petition. Long story.)

        My understanding is that this was in response to a private (subscription-only) fire outfit letting a non-subscriber’s house burn down, thus creating an opportunity for TPTB to assert control. At least that what our chief (of the banned VFD) was told. Our area always was horrible for trying to fight structure fires, and this didn’t make it any better. (Very large district, sparsely populated, and so on.)

      2. No Fed land, so no Fed fussing. Everything out here is state or private, and the Texas Forest Service coordinates major fire efforts. The only federal lands are a national monument and the Pantex Plant, and those have agreements with the state and counties or have their own fire department with VFD and City of Amarillo back-up.

        1. That is one of the nice things for Texas. As I understand it, having come into the Union as an independent nation that already owned the public lands, there were no Texas lands that became part of the Federal lands. The states organized from land purchased or conquered from other nations by the Federal government are not so lucky.

      1. How’s the shoulder today?

        The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File.

        The People We Deserve
        Today, we have a ‘crisis of responsibility.’

        Outsourcing Virtue

        One of the things — really, the thing — that makes capitalism work is the division of labor. If we all churned our own butter or raised our own livestock, we’d have little time to do anything else. The problem is that we are not homo economicus. We do not restrict ourselves to the benefits of the division of labor for food and clothes, while reserving all other responsibilities to ourselves. As Albert Jay Nock put it (in what he called “Epstean’s Law”), “Man tends always to satisfy his needs and desires with the least possible exertion.”

        We live in an age when we all too often want our local problems, even our personal problems, to be national problems because we think that the government in Washington is there to solve anything called a “national problem.” But the truth is that very few problems should be considered national problems because, among other reasons, most problems are in fact local ones and lend themselves almost exclusively to local solutions. David French makes this point quite well. If the government in Washington is ill-equipped or unable to stop a bad thing from happening, the response shouldn’t be to simply yell louder at it. The response should be, “Well, what can we do ourselves?”

        This highlights the problem with capitalism. As Irving Kristol observed in one of his greatest works, “When Virtue Loses All Her Loveliness,” there is a difference between a “free society” and a “just” or “bourgeois” society. The Founders worked on the assumption that the people themselves would be the guardians of virtue, probity, norms, and even public safety in their own communities. And, as Kristol notes, for the first century or two of capitalism’s existence, it was largely synonymous with a just/bourgeois society.

        But capitalism consistently divides labor into thinner and thinner slices, so that the habits of the heart that made capitalism work — thrift, industrious, decent manners — become less and less essential. In the process, virtue falls by the wayside, and we look to government or other sources of authority or simply the market to provide things we’ve ceased providing for ourselves, from parents who outsource moral education to schools, to college students who demand they be protected from scary ideas, to populists of the left and the right who demand that the government fix tectonic changes brought about by globalization and technology. I’m not saying people have become evil or even lazy, nor am I blaming the victims of horrendous crimes such as what we saw in Florida. I’m saying we have, as my friend David Bahnsen puts it in his new book, a “crisis of responsibility.” Everything must be easy. There needs to be an app for that, because I’m too damn busy.

        And it is systemic. Many of our national legislators want to be pundits, decrying usurped powers that are wielded by the other branches of government, rather than legislating to stop it. Local politicians would rather pound the table about what the federal government should do to fix urgent problems — problems that they were elected to deal with — than fix the problems themselves. The whole framework created by the Founders was based on the assumption that our governing institutions would be jealous guardians of their power. They are now made up of people who are jealous guardians of their slots on Morning Joe or Fox and Friends.

        Indeed, cable news and social media pour gasoline on the fire. The Founders envisioned a sprawling nation where most conversations were local in large part because all media were local. Today, there is literally a national conversation because technology allows us to have one, and it is garbage. It is garbage for precisely the reason Rousseau and the Founders would surmised. You cannot view a vast, sprawling, diverse, continental national such as ours as if it were a small community. But that’s what the “one-nation politics” fad does: It elevates every grievance and slight to a national shouting match. We get outraged by the lack of conformity of people who live thousands of miles away from us. As Megan McArdle has written, social media have turned the whole country into a nation of small-town gossips, prying and judging, clucking and tsk-tsking people they’ll never meet for not agreeing with them or because they’re not living the right way.

        The Founders created Congress to represent the views and interests of local communities. Our representatives would sift through myriad conversations both literal and figurative (in the form of local newspapers, which were, as de Tocqueville observed, the backbone of “association,” i.e., community) searching for the most important and relevant conversations worthy of consideration on a national level. Congress was where the national conversation was supposed to take place. Now, the national conversation is a Hieronymus Bosch painting of a damn online comment section.

        One last point: I am not arguing that we should do away with capitalism or that we should abandon the notion of a free society (though I do think it needs tweaking). I am arguing that our problems are both bottom-up and top-down. The worse one gets, the worse the other gets, because at the end of the day, de Maistre was at least half right: Every nation gets the government it deserves, but every government ultimately gets the people it deserves, too.

        1. Based on the way the internet has created communities that are not collocated geographically, I’ve been poking around at a form of government that has one house for the geography of constituents (big chunks – think states) and another for their community of interest. Initially I thought voters would just register their interest community, but I realized that there’s a sort of interest market implied there, so now I’m thinking of an assignment of interest at perhaps the 5%-block resolution. Thus a voter* with an interest in space exploitation (note _not_ exploration), firearms** rights, and fiscal responsibility could register 40% of their vote with the Space Exploitation jurisdiction, 25% with the Firearms Rights jurisdiction, and 35% with the Only Spend Money You Have jurisdiction. Then elections would be held within each of those virtual-community jurisdictions between various parties to represent those interest communities in the second house.

          Still poking around the edges and gaming things to see what the unintended consequences are, but I’m thinking it might work better than two houses based on where-you-sleep.

          * Still thinking through what qualifies a warm body (or an AI) as a full-franchise voter.

          ** Including fricking lasers, ‘cause SF. Besides, you can light a fire with lasers. Makes perfect sense.

          1. Scrounge up a copy of Joan D. Vinge’s “Outcasts of the Heaven Belt.” She wrote it before “the internet” technically existed; what networks there were, didn’t much talk to each other… but as a throwaway in her novel, the Belters ran a democracy over a communications network spread out over an entire asteroid belt…

            About the same time, L. Neil Smith’s “The Probability Broach” showed something very like the modern internet, right down to smartphones and apps. His libertarian/anarchist civilization took care of what government it got around to by having the citizenry assign proxies to ad-hoc representatives in real time; no campaigning or elections needed.

            Representative democracy as-we-know-it is an artefact of poor communications; it simply wasn’t *possible* to give citizen-level democratic representation at anything much above the village level; one of the reasons Greek democracies were mostly small. But with modern communications, a more optimal system could be designed. And it probably wouldn’t look much like a “government” compared to pre-networked ones.

            1. I haven’t read the Vinge – I’ll add it to The List.

              I did read The Probability Broach, but I had forgotten the proxies thing – that is interesting. I still like the idea of a voters “district” being memspace driven rather than areas drawn in the dirt, with voters having the ability to change based on other than “vote with their feet”. But a revocable proxy… hmm…

            2. The problem is you both seem to be ascribing to the idea that immediate democracy on a large scale is a good thing. It isn’t. It leads to mob rule, really.

              As Jonah points out, part of the whole concept (the American experiment)is that real rule/governance is kept as much as possible within arms’ reach (read that as upper arm and forearm, or something that throws lead – your call). Yes, you can vote all the way from the moon using the internet. But that doesn’t mean you should.

      2. I suspect the Great Author is tired of my flirting with acedia, and if I don’t do something, the boot (or poke with a spear-butt) will come next.

  4. I am male and my sense of virtue was formed by my two ardently religious grandmothers(Catholic and Scot Presbyterian) and for my fifteenth birthday my granda gave me Marcus Aurelius’ meditations and told me that how proper man meant to behave.

    1. To kind of follow TXRed in this kind of thing this is the second time Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations has come up this week. I’m going to go find a copy, preferably a physical copy but a copy none the less and read it.

      I’ve usually been lurking here enjoying the discussions in the comments section and the suggested reading that gets mentioned from time to time that is non-fiction. I need more of that.

      1. Meditations is a good one. I found it helps to read it with the history it was written in on the mind, too. If you can find the context, it’s worth it.

      2. There were several free for Kindle versions on Amazon. The first one I chose gave a brief rundown of the history of Stoics and of Marcus Aurelius to help put it in perspective.

  5. One problem is that we’re taxed, often quite heavily, to pay for welfares. It leaves us with a good deal less to be charitable with…and honestly, with a sense that many of the “poor and starvin” are running a con game.

    1. Tell me about it. Especially when you watch the “poor and starvin'” load the hundred+ dollars worth of steak and lobsters you just watched them buy into the back of a brand-new Escalade with spinner rims. Or rather, had someone else load the food into their SUV because they couldn’t bother to tear their attention away from their latest-model iPhone.

      And the thing is, I get it. I get that there are people who are poor purely due to reasons that are completely beyond their control, and who desperately need government handouts in order to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads. But seeing the stuff I describe above makes it REALLY had for me to be sympathetic to ANYONE on welfare.

      1. *bows head* I am ashamed to be a welfare bum. Have no choice in the matter, and I don’t ask for extra handouts because of my situation. That being said, I do the majority of my shopping in a budget grocery store. Brand name items are treats for me. Flyers are where I start all my shopping. This is a temporary situation and I will be moving up when I can get a chance to breathe. Hopefully in about six months. Best case three.
        I understand where you are coming from though, because I have seen the abuse in the system as well and was agog at how people justified it or just didn’t seem to care how they looked to those that funded their life style. I just can’t wait to be able to be a tax payer once again.

        1. You are not a bum, and I sincerely apologize for implying that you are. That was never my intention. The last few days have put me in a really pissy mood (having former friends calling for you to be imprisoned and/or executed because of the actions of a solitary madman has that effect) but that’s neither an excuse nor justification.

          The bums are the ones who regularly abuse the system and/or or who believe that they are “entitled” to handouts for whatever reason. That’s not you.

          I sincerely hope that your situation changes for the better, and soonest.

          1. Yeah, I know you weren’t implying my case. I am still filled with shame that I am in this situation due to proper forethought and preparation. I too hope things improve, although the way the year has been going so far. *shakes head*
            And the last thing in the box was hope…..

              1. I know things will get better. I have a PLAN(!!!!), that just has to get to the point where it can be implemented. I’m lucky that I have someone that is willing to work with me and let me try to work out my dreams. Just need to get through the fiddly bits to get there. The trenches part is so hard sometimes. At least I have a light at the end of the tunnel that’s not an oncoming train.

            1. I’m not going to say “shame is good”, but the attitude that has you feeling a measure of shame is the attitude that draws you up and has you fighting for a chance to do better. And that is a good thing.
              I’m hoping it works out for you. I want to hear of your success. 🙂

        2. Note the difference between those on support because of a really good reason, versus those who feel entitled to the necessities while their money goes to luxuries. (Thinks of relative who expects others to bail out of messes, but keeps buying new cars.)

          1. Or, like a friend of mine, they simply don’t make the connection between “what I make” and “what I spend.” They just keep swiping the debit card until it’s declined, then panic. Meanwhile opening new VISA and MasterCard accounts every two or three months and running them up.

            I used to think he did it deliberately, but now I’m pretty sure it’s some kind of blind spot. And, hey, how can I fault him for it? Congress and the Senate are full of people, mostly with law degrees, who can’t seem to connect “money in” to “money out” as they vote in more deficit spending. If our elected leaders can’t balance a checkbook, I think it’s unreasonable for them to expect Joe Sixpack to be able to.

          2. I’m currently annoyed because someone I know who is both older and physically disabled has lost his housing and all because *nobody’s giving him a job interview.* He’s spent the last two years with his assiduously updated technical skills looking for work, but apparently all his applications have gotten round-filed—whether from his age or from his limited mobility, no one can tell.

            Of *course* it’s illegal to discriminate based on either trait. Doesn’t stop people from doing it.

            He’s really depressed because nobody’s willing to look at someone highly qualified for whatever reason.

        3. My sister needed it at one point, too– thing is, she probably could have gotten by OK, except that she was taxed to pay for that stuff, too…. no ability to build up a cushion, and less take-home pay.

    2. And yet, in spite of taxes and a growing government aid, the citizens of the US continue to be the most generous contributors to charity in the world.  

  6. The bit about prisoner rehabilitation reminded me of the Poirot quote about “victims who need not have been victims if justice had been put first and mercy second.”

    Also on “speaking for the voiceless,” I remember an organization a few years back that was suing for royalties on behalf of a gorilla who had taken a selfie. Apparently, they had magically deduced that if the gorilla could get the money that was so rightfully his, he would have donated it to the aforementioned organization rather than the more likely case where he’d have blown it all on hookers and bananas.

  7. I once watched a movie that was entirely about the difference between absolution and redemption. It couldn’t have been more Catholic if the DVD came packaged with icons and communion wafers.

    The movie was “Gran Torino.”

    1. That was a documentary 🙂 I was watching at Old NFO’s house with a few other Interesting People. The commentary was… educational.

      1. I had *no idea* what the movie was supposed to be about. “Hey, a new Eastwood movie, want to try that one?” “Sure, whatever.”

        I thought it rocked. But the reviews on the internet seemed to be about a different movie, about 75% “hateful old bigot gets his comeuppance, yay!” and 25% “not Dirty Harry, WTF?”

  8. I have long been troubled by the pleas for leniency for those who grew up in ‘hard’ neighborhoods surrounded by crime and poverty, where they had ‘little’ chance.  Now we have people arguing that we shouldn’t even police such neighborhoods ‘so strictly’ because to do so is prejudiced.  Wouldn’t the more virtuous path be to work to free such neighborhoods from the ongoing detrimental effects of crime?

    1. “Leniency” is an evil born from waylaid good. The impulse to charity and sacrifice appeals to our better natures, but in the absence of *responsiblity* it becomes twisted. Each virtue has its dark side. Passion and wrath. Courage and recklessness. Love and envy (and lust).

      One way to walk the path of the Virtues is to first accept responsibility. Personally. Not for the actions of others, but for oneself. Taking into account the twelve rules mentioned this week (Peterson) and self care being one of them, that means being prepared for other people to be utter ruthless bastards. Human beings are born selfish, and unless well taught, will *remain* that way for the rest of their lives.

      The virtuous man does not expect goodness of others. He extends trust while carrying the knowledge that his trust will likely be abused. Good people are such by proving they are with their actions, time and again. Unknown people are probably selfish when they can get away with it, when it costs them little and profits them much. This is normal, and has been for as long as humans have been.

      Our time is an aberration in human history. Despite human beings being basically and originally anywhere from mildly bad to truly horrific, *most* folks seem to be fairly trusting and trustworthy, caring, and willing to sacrifice a bit of their own wealth for the good of others. What is rare in much of the rest of the world (from what I can tell) is common here. Despite the common paucity of spirit in humanity, uncommon virtue abounds.

      It is still wise to lock your door when you go to work of course. And to take precautions when doing good samaritan type deeds (BTDT, have the scars and bits of metal still in me to prove it). Caring without wisdom is nothing but folly by another name.

      1. One of the definitions for sin is that it’s a good that is out of balance– lust is sexual attraction without proper limits, hate is recognition of a wrong run way out of control, greed is desire for a good thing that has had things like “care for others” removed, etc.

        1. I have been fuming all day about things that don’t deserve that much fury. …And some that really do, but thinking about what I’d like to say to some people, while not as bad as actually doing it, isn’t getting things I’m actually responsible for done, either.

          *long sigh* Articulating that probably helped, a little. Going to go try to be productive now.

  9. Speaking of the problem of reforming prisoners, while there are some otherwise honest people who ran afoul of the regulatory thicket, failing to dot an i or cross a t, by and large most criminals have significant issues with impulse control and executive function. Unless and until those issues are dealt with, neither prison nor any post-prison assistance will make any great difference in their likelihood of re-offending.

    Then there are those who have other mental issues and are self-medicating, and run afoul of drug laws. But that’s a whole different set of problems.

    1. The problem of recidivism means vermin on two legs get cycled in and out of the system to prey on society once more. I’d like to see a practical method wherein criminals could *prove* that they were willing and able to re-enter the civilized world as law abiding citizens, rather than simply “doing time.” End mandatory maximums, lock ’em up until they are willing to take the steps. Habitual re-offenders are parasites, deal with them as such. Folks who have fallen afoul of the complex legal code should be treated humanely- but our compassion should have limits. Where does mercy lie when the innocent are harmed anew by those who were caught, jailed, and set free again simply because a certain time has passed?

      1. Nah, puts too much power in the hands of folks whose judgement I already don’t trust.

        Fix issues with plea deals, make more use of three strikes rules, and for f sake stop putting people on probation when they’re habitual criminals!

        1. Was on a jury for a trial that had all kind of weird vibes and things going on during the trial, and only after we concluded the dude was so guilty his photo was in the dictionary definition (breaking and entering an occupied residence, theft, possession of stolen property from other thefts – homeowner surprised the perp rifling through his wife’s purse in the kitchen, chased him out and tackled him until the local PD rolled up) did we find out this was the defendant’s third strike, explaining all the weirdness.

          Some of the weirdness was recognizable after the fact as trying to lay the basis for sympathy because the dude would be going away for a long time for a smaller-ish crime, but this guy was pretty much the definition for career criminal, plus anyone who breaks into an occupied residence is a very short step away from much worse stuff.

          This guy is the reason California passed our three strikes law.

          1. Thug tries robbing Mongo and fails.

            Thug tries to rob Bluto and fails.

            Guy tries to rob Swee’ Pea and we’re supposed to shrug it off?

          2. plus anyone who breaks into an occupied residence is a very short step away from much worse stuff

            Yes. That is #1 on the 911 calls that don’t involve an actual weapon pointed at anybody, because it’s a sneeze away from BECOMING a murder scene.

      2. All that would require is a reliable truth detector. Actual truth detector. Probably relying on the way that the mental functions to tell the truth and tell lies are not the same.

        And won’t that be a can of worms.

          1. Actually, there’s some evidence that retrieving false memories is a different mental faculty from true ones.

    2. Was just reading latest crime stats and now can’t find ’em again, but anyway — IQ bell curve for serious crime clusters in the range of 85 to 92: smart enough to plan the nefarious act, not smart enough to grok consequences. Another article I saw recently (might have been by Heather Mac Donald) pointed up that punishment only works when it’s relatively immediate; if long-delayed, in the offender’s mind that’s the same as “never” and having got away with it, hence is no deterrent. I expect this effect is stronger with the lower-IQ offenders (ie. less long-term thinking).

      1. Worked in a DJJ residential prevention program for a year once- the “last stop before Juvie” kind of place.
        The clients were exactly that- smart enough to get into trouble, not smart enough to understand that the reason they kept coming back was because they weren’t all that smart.

        1. Theodore Dalrymple observed once that a tiny percentage of prisoners, when he spoke of seeing them again when they were released from prison, would say, “No.” but most would say, “It depends” — that was to say, it depended on what other people did, not on them.

    3. by and large most criminals have significant issues with [following the rules]
      I’ve often said that there are not any innocent people in prison, though there may be a LOT of people who aren’t guilty of the crime for which they were convicted.

  10. Sigh. I am not a virtuous person. Right now I’m tired and pretty much a jerk. Being tired isn’t an excuse because it only drops your guard and lets out what’s inside.Yes, I’m fighting acting like a jerk, but a virtuous person can act virtuous regardless of circumstance or how they feel physically.

    1. Yeah, I don’t know very many truly virtuous people. Most of us just try and fail at it. Hence the prayer “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

  11. I’m quite possibly the worst-practitioner-of-my-professed-religion-ever. ~ c. 2017


    I feel the same way. Not because I of my sins and iniquities: the things I have not done which I ought, and the things I ought not do which I have done. That’s small beer. We’re flawed beings living in enemy territory. Of course THAT happens.

    But I have not loved my God with my whole heart. He’s the sun and I’m out at Pluto, looking back. That’s terrifying. That’s “worst practitioner ever.”

    Just screwing up? That’s human.

    1. “You shall love the Lord thy God with all your heart. And all your soul, and all your mind. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

      Doomed, I tell you.

      1. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

        Piece o’ cake – I’ve mastered self-loathing long since.

  12. Sarah, my sympathies. About two years ago, my wife left her id in the seatback pocket on a flight to LA (long term contract, about 4 months), and about a month later (after we had jumped through the hoops to get another one from TX DPS), it showed back up…. having been found by the cleaning crew in Honolulu, held there for two weeks, mailed to our house in Plano, and then re-forwarded by the post office to LA with the rest of our mail.

    “My id card got a Hawaiian vacation, and I didn’t get the miles.” Sigh.

  13. Virtue, comes from the Latin vir, meaning “man.” Vir, virtus. Manliness becomes excellence, the best a human can be. Which then makes me think of Aslan’s line about descent from Adam should make the greatest king and queen bow in humility and cause the poorest beggar to hold his head up with pride.

  14. Mercy, while a great virtue, is completely dependent on justice; justice is not similarly dependent on mercy.

    Justice without mercy is harsh justice, but it is still justice.

    Mercy without justice has ceased to be mercy and become lenience.

    When you have lenience in criminal justice, you have reached the “Kindness to the cruel is cruelty to the kind” stage.

  15. On the other hand some of us who are religious are also really bad at believing we made full atonement.
    But *you* can’t make atonement, and aren’t supposed to. That’s why He sent His Son – to make atonement for you.

    Al Gore … while living in a mansion larger than some small third world villages some Midwestern American towns

    1. Which makes refusing to accept it basically meaning the same as “my sins are too big for God”, which is why there’s… argh, can’t remember the word… it’s a specific kind of weakness where you feel like you haven’t “really” been forgiven of something and keep confessing either something you already confessed to, or something that isn’t really sinful.

      Cupcucense? Culp-placency? ARgh….

      1. It’s what drove Luther to distraction. And what led him to see the light in Romans. It’s all taken care of. Even the new stuff. Especially the old stuff. All of it.

        What He wants you to do is move forward and grow toward Him. With the confidence of His grace.

        1. That is…really not a good reaction to something that is a known human flaw, rather than a doctrine. Having trouble believing in something you can’t see isn’t going to be fixed by declaring it’s forgiven already.

  16. Is this the new THING?
    Nah, it’s an old thing. Got it’s biggest push in the 70s, iirc.
    Then we got push back that brought mandatory sentencing guidelines.
    Which have now brought about a push for not-mandatory sentencing……

    It’s that whole “Bad times make good men; good men make good times, good times make weak men…” meme.

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