Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

What's really wrong here?

goldsquare posted an entry yesterday, talking about the rising tide of lawlessness in this country, especially among government officials. I started to comment on that, and then realized that I'd written a top-level entry. So spinning off of his question:

What can we do, really do, to make law and order in personal conduct the watchword of governance?

I'm honestly not even sure it's the right question. I think the lawlessness is just a side-effect -- probably an inevitable side-effect -- of the factionalization of society.

The problem is that these matters aren't really being defined in terms of "right" and "wrong" in most peoples' minds; instead, there's a deep undercurrent of "us" vs. "them". That which "we" do is automatically good; that which "they" do is suspicious, and probably wrong. What's legal is being treated as a minor consideration, by comparison. The left is nearly as subject to this particular syndrome as the right, IMO -- the right is just able to commit vastly worse abuses because they're in power and willing to employ this effect to their benefit.

In other words, ethical thinking is being lost underneath tribal loyalty -- man's best nature is losing out to his worst. So long as that mindset persists, law and order don't stand a chance, because they aren't as *important* to people as loyalty is. So long as enough people are thinking with the gut reaction of "he's one of us, so he can't have done anything *that* bad", there's no way to enforce lawful behaviour upon the powerful.

How do you stop it? It's got to be through communications. Say what you will about the old Big Media, they at least had a sense of responsibility to society. Mid-20th-century television was founded with an explicit mandate of unifying society. That had its downside (in particular, encouraging a sometimes-dangerous homogeneity), but the upside was to prevent factionalization from getting too bad. Now, OTOH, most of the media has abdicated that role, and in some cases are actively subverting it, setting the liberals and conservatives at each others' throats in a way that any good war profiteer would recognize and embrace.

The problem today is that everyone is so distracted by the internecine warfare that they're missing the important stuff. Even the liberals who *do* notice the various government atrocities are mostly letting themselves get distracted by idiocies like the Schiavo case. Meanwhile, the media are cleaning up, playing up these fake "big stories" so that they become news, while neglecting the stuff that really matters.

So the really critical question, IMO, is how do we get people communicating again? How do we start making this country feel like one society instead of two? Because until that happens -- until people unify enough to recognize that ethical and legal standards are more *important* than tribal ones -- I genuinely believe the other problems aren't solvable...

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