Saturday, June 29, 2013

I Am Outraged

I'd like to propose a little thought-experiment. Einstein and the boys a century ago would imaging things like passenger trains hurtling at one another at thousands of miles per second to work out the details of Relativity.

So, I want you to suppose you are one of the folks on Storage Wars bidding on abandoned storage lockers. In the first locker you and your frienemy bid each other up because you both see a box for a rare collectible Star Wars toy. One of you wins, but pays through the nose for it. The next locker you see a similar box for a similar item of value and that locker sells at a premium, too. At the end of the day, a locker goes up for auction, and inside is a priceless 1935 Duesenberg convertible. You and your frienemy each check your pockets and find you've spent all your money. The locker then goes for a song as you look on helplessly. When you inspect your locker, you find the box is empty.

Your actions are reasonable because storage lockers containing priceless objects d'art are as rare these days as KKK lynchings.

Great crimes should be suffered with great outrage and small crimes should only warrant small outrage.

Yet, we've seen a reversal of this in our society. Decades-old thought-crimes are spun into "the worst form of racism." Morning-after regrets can occasion accusations of rape. And so on.

This lack of perspective comes about because a lynching is so rare these days. Society has advanced morally. No civilized person thinks it's OK to demean a person for the color of his skin. No civilized person thinks the victim of rape "was asking for it." No civilized person thinks that being a girl is inferior to being a boy.

Why is even the barest hint of transgression in these areas met with such fury? There is only a finite amount of outrage that a person or a society can muster. Why do we spend it so foolishly?

It could be that the activists don't really believe their own rhetoric about having won and they overcompensate to deny their insecurities.

More likely it's the rice bowl.

Suppose I held Aladdin's Lamp with infinite wishes and used the first one to end racism. What would this do to the people crying the loudest about racism? If I used the second wish to end poverty, think of the social workers who'd be tossed out of work.

The righteous work of the activist is to find the largest social problem in his/her area of interest and solve it. Then move on to the second-largest, and so on. But nobody is enslaving blacks, or lynching them, or segregating schools, or red-lining mortgages, or using the n-word. Now we have claims of subliminal racism.

At some point, the activist should admit victory. But admitting victory hurts fundraising.

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