A Level Gaze

"What effect must it have on a nation if it learns no foreign languages? Probably much the same as that which a total withdrawal from society has upon an individual."
--G.C. Lichtenberg



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Friday, March 18, 2005
 
Blind Cruelty = B.C.

I just wanted to add to Matthew Yglesias' eminently sound rebuke of Eugene Volokh's case for retributive cruelty a few small observations.

Matthew is correct in the pragmatic sense, that official sanction for the carrying out of such impulses is detrimental to societal unity by fostering a culture of grudge-holders. It would also tend to the enshrinement of martyrs, the existence of whom would likely act as levers for disaffected groups to legitimize their beliefs. It is instructive to look to the aftermath of the Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents, neither of which was a sanctioned, purposeful action on society's behalf, and yet contributed to the belief on the part of Timothy McVeigh and others that blowing up a federal building was a reasonable response. Carrying this line of thinking to its logical extreme, I wonder how far the ideas of a certain Jewish carpenter's son would have spread had the Romans quietly killed or imprisoned him.

I'd also like to suggest that followers of that martyred individual who advocate such forms of punitive retribution find another religion. I mean, that's the whole point, that in the face of such treatment, you're supposed to overcome your natural impulses toward revenge and strive to love one another, even unto one's enemies. If you don't even aspire to this, you can in no sense account yourself Christian.