Moral Masturbation

I wrote this during the run-up to our current incursion into other people’s territory. I think it holds up fairly well in today’s market.

I’ve been reading all the stuff on the message boards about the coming–and seemingly inevitable–war with Iraq, and one thing stands out: no one seems to be able to do much but hash the same old arguments over and over. The pro-administration people (may their tribe decrease precipitously) say the same old stuff, and so do we liberal-pinko-fascist-loving unpatriotic peaceniks (may we breed lustily and well, and soon overrun the planet.) But NO ONE seems to have anything useful to say!

Is that due to the quality of thinking of our writers and visitors? I sort of doubt it. This site gets a lot of traffic. Even if we accept the bell-shaped curve, (and I suspect the stats are actually skewed in the direction of the high end,) at least 20% or so of the readership has got to be pretty bright, yet we keep getting the same old arguments. I suspect the real answer is simply that there aren’t any real answers. We feel as though events are out of our control, and so we resort to the comfort of repetitive ideas, rants, insults, belittling and so forth that make us feel intellectually comfortable and allow us to ignore the wolves at the doors and windows.

I wonder what all the prognosticators are doing–in reality–to further their purported ideas and positions? How many peace-lovers have contributed anything besides internet rhetoric to their causes? How many conservatives, perhaps a teensy bit nervous about the government’s position, have contacted their representatives and let them know just what they believe the limits ought to be? In other words, how many people have put their money, their public persona, their reputation where their mouths are, and how many are just moral masturbators?

Integrity: a virtue that demands of each and every one of us that we discern what is right and what is wrong; that we act on what we have discerned, even at personal cost, and that we say openly that we are acting on our understanding of right from wrong. – Stephen L. Carter, Integrity (Basic Books)

The Art of Peace is the religion that is not a religion; it perfects and completes all religions. – Morihei Ueshiba

Well?

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