Would You Be Polite to Muggers?

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You can’t fix something until you know what’s wrong with it.

Well, something is very wrong with our political system, to a great extent because something is wrong with our moral system.

But most of us don’t want to name it, much less discuss it openly.

If you’ve been watching the major candidates for Front Man, you may have noticed this. Take, for example, the subject of “health care” reform. The underlying assumption – and it’s not the tired old saw about government dictating our “health care” choices – is never mentioned. The talk is all about which “plan” is the better plan; which of them is the more efficient and so on. Everyone is very polite.

Never will you hear a major figure, someone who actually has a shot at being the next Front Man, ask whether it is moral to seize the property of one person in order to give the proceeds (or some of them, the government taking its cut for the processing) to another. To put a finer more uncomfortable point on it, whether it is right and proper to threaten one’s neighbors – that nice guy next door, the couple down the road, those people you see at the store every weekend – with physical violence in order to make them do this or hand over money to help finance that.

It is the key to everything – which is why none dare mention it openly.

For sanity’s sake, we must pretend that the money we’re getting – those of us who are getting it – comes from some amorphous “somewhere” never to be thought about too much. For if each each person who received a government check had to confront the reality, had literally to send burly men armed with truncheons and guns over to his next-door neighbor’s home – better yet, had to personally troop over to his neighbor’s home armed with a truncheon or a gun – and accost those poor people himself, in order to force them to “contribute” – then his moral choice would be made crystal clear.

Instead, we have the vote – and speak in euphemisms, politely.

We do our dirty work at a distance – or rather, we have others do it for us – and blank out the knowledge of what is being done.

Counterfeit (or simply misguided) civility is perhaps the worst aspect of this process of societal evasion.

We pretend we’re not stealing – and are polite to those who do – provided they do it a certain way.

It is a very strange thing.

If a street thug accosted the typical person in an alley, the victim (if he survived) will be full of righteous anger; he will call his attacker by various choice names and regard that individual as beneath contempt, having checked out of the human race by engaging in the use of violence against an innocent person.

But notice the transformation in thinking – and acting – that occurs when the thug cleans himself up, puts on a suit and tie and becomes a politician. Or an activist. Now this same individual, doing the same work, can expect polite treatment – even deference. He will be invited to speak; his hand will be shaken. Not one in a million people will call him what he is, openly, to his face. And if that one in a million person does call him what he is, openly, and to his face – he, not the creature that is advocating violence against innocent people – will be derided and shouted down.

For being impolite.

I have an ex-friend, a guy I used to argue with about politics and morality. He would (try) to chide me for what he regarded as my “mean-spirited” attitude toward redistributionist politics. I once asked him whether he would speak in low tones and polite terms about a guy who attacked his daughter, or broke into his home to take things and perhaps kill him and his wife in the process. If he knew me to be a thief, or a guy who beat people up to make them do what I wanted – would he still be my friend? Civil toward me?

He drew back and huffed of course not. I then asked why he thought I ought to be civil to people who do the same sorts of things but on a mass scale, causing far more damage (physical as well as moral)?

I got the Blank Stare.

To people such as my ex-friend, the act of Voting or of becoming a Politician, or of passing a Law somehow transforms an act that would be regarded as vile and evil if performed by an individual into something laudatory and morally clean. Our whole system – the economy and social structure – is based on this dubious moral shuck-and-jive.

People collecting Social Security don’t want to think about the source waters of their monthly check. Previous generations could claim the illusion that SS was a sort-of annuity, that they were just getting back what they paid in, with interest. But today the fulsome scurvy truth about SS is well-known. The money paid out in benefits to you today comes out of the pockets of young workers, people you’ve never even met (who have needs of their own, one should add) taken from them by violence. It does not bear thinking about. So also with regard to literally scores, perhaps thousands, of “programs” – plus all the “services” involved in ladling out the products of other peoples’ labor.

When you hear someone arguing in favor of “health care” reform or “saving Social Security” they are speaking in evasions and euphemisms. What they are really arguing in favor of is sending men armed with guns to your home to threaten you with violence, to make you do this or help to pay for that. To put you in a cage. Possibly, even to kill you.

But as long as we are polite and continue to pretend that theft is not theft, that the system is not based on violence and force rather than voluntary cooperation and free exchange, we are exactly like the drug addict who refuses to come to terms with his addiction. To admit that he is an addict, openly.

We too are addicts – and far advanced.

There’s still time for a cure, but the clock is ticking…

Reprinted with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.

Eric Peters [send him mail] is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his website.

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